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A Journal of Italian Studies 

Volume 12 1991-92 

Department of Italian, UCLA 


A Journal of Italian Studies 

Volume 12 1991-92 

Depkrtment of Italian, UCLA 

Editorial Board 

Editon-in-chief: Giovanni D'Agostino, Daniela di Gaeta 

Associate Editors: Mauro Ferrerò, Gabrielle Lesperance, Jeremy Parzen, 
Kristin Phillips 

The Editorial Board for Volume 12 was constituted by graduate students of 
the Department of Italian, UCLA. 

Advisory Board 

Luigi Ballerini, Italian, UCLA 

Franco Betti, Italian, UCLA 

Giovanni Cecchetti, Italian, UCLA 

Marga Cottino-Jones, Italian, UCLA 

Lucia Re, Italian, Comparative Literature, UCLA 

Edward Tuttle, Italian, Romance Linguistics, UCLA 

Carte Italiane, edited by graduate students of UCLA, is published annually under the 
auspices of the Department of Italian and largely funded by the UCLA Graduate Stu- 
dent Association. Typescripts in English or Italian in ali areas of Italian studies must 
follow the guidelines of the MLA Handbook and he submitted in duplicate by February 
15 to: 

Editor, Carte Italiane 

Department of Italian, UCLA 

340 Royce Hall 

405 Hilgard Avenue 

Los Angeles, CA 90024 

[Phone# (310) 825-1940] 

Articles are indexed in the MLA International Btbliography. i 

Subscription rates of Carte Italiane are $6.00 to individuai and $8.00 to institutions f 
(US funds). Overseas subscribers please add $1.00 for shipping. 

Copyright © 1992 by the Regents of the University of California. Ali rights reser^ed. 
IISSN 0747-9412] 



Introduction to the Proceedings of the First UCLA 
Interdisciphnary Student Conference on Italian Culture 1 

Andrea Baldi e Tommaso Raso 

Caricatura e carattere. Una lettura del Candelaio 4 

Davide Stimilli 

That Awful Mess, Life: The Language of Gadda 's 
Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana 1 2 

Marina Debellagente La Palma 

The Concept of Museum in Early Futurist Manifestoes 19 

Irina Costache 

The Anatomy of a Propaganda Event: the Mostra 
della rivoluzione fascista 30 

Maria Stone 

Pasolini's Cinema of Revolution 41 

David Pendleton 

Sexual Politics in Sixteenth Century Italy: Folengo 's 52 

Macaronic Misogyny 
Mary M. Gallucci 


The new Editorial Board of Carte Italiane is glad to prcscnt volume 
12 of its literary journal. This year's special edition includes the Pro- 
ceedings of the First UCLA Interdisciplinary Conference on Italian 
Culture held on Aprii 26-27, 1990. 

Since our journal is undergoing a phase of reorganization and 
being revitalized due to last year's stagnant activity, we apologize if 
some of the papers presented at the conference have not been pub- 
lished. We have made a lenient but fair selection; in some cases it was 
impossible to contact some of the participants due to the great length 
of time which had elapsed between the actual conference and this year's 

We would like to thank our colleagues on the Editorial Board, the 
professors of the Advisory Board, Calvin Graves and Lynn Boyden for 
their supporr during the early stages of preparation. We are greatly 
indebted to our new Chair of the Department, Professor Luigi Ballerini, 
who has provided an unprecedented employment position for a Direc- 
tor of Carte Italiane for the years to come. We are grateful to the past 
editor of the journal, Andrea Baldi, who has always been supportive 
and helpful at a time when bis own schedule was so thoroughly 
besieged. Without bis assistance this year's volume would not have gone 
to press. 

The Editors 




Los Angeles, Aprii 26-27, 1990 

Edited by the Editorial Board of Carte Italiane, 1991-92 

Directors of the Conference: 

Andrea Baldi and Tommaso Raso 

Organizing Committee: 

Cristina Della Coletta and Barbara Zecchi-Monléon (Vice-Directors), 
Michael D'Andrea and Rosanna Ferraro 

The First Interdisciplinary Student Conference on Italian Culture has 
been organized by Carte Italiane, the Graduate Student Journal of the 
Italian Department at UCLA. 

When we decided to pian this conference, we intended to create a 
program which would address a need that we, as well as other students 
on campus, felt strongly about: namely to bave a multifarious and 
dynamic forum, in which intense interaction would allow students, par- 
ticularly graduate students, to exchange their ideas and intellectual 
accomplishments. Our goal was to make Carte Italiane something more 
than a vehicle apt for the circulation of selected papers among a nar- 
row circle of readers. We felt it was now necessary to embrace a wider 
and more diverse audience. 

We wanted to transcend, at least for a couple of days, what we feel 
can at times be a structural limitation of the University system: the isola- 
tion of departments in their own specific areas of interest. It is for this 
reason that we conceived an interdisciplinary conference, so that we 


could offer the widest possible array of methodologies and perspectives 
within the field of Italian studies and cultute. 

We also wanted to gather students from various universities, not only 
from the U.S. but also from Canada, so that we could encourage a more 
interesting exchange. Therefore, beyond the diverse thematic ap- 
proaches to Italian culture, brought about by the very nature of the 
initiative, there would also be a major impact at various levels among 
students, since different universities would offer distinct cultural and 
academic environments. 

Determined to reach our goals, we tried, with the combined efforts 
and hard work of Cristina Della Coletta, Barbara Zecchi (Vice- 
Directors), Michael D'Andrea, and Rosanna Ferraro, to take advantage 
of the Services that UCLA and the Campus Programs Committee offer 
to organizations like Carte Italiane. Notwithstanding the help of the 
people who assisted this project, we had to fight against deadlines and 
to cut some red tape in order to achieve our purpose. But we are now 
particularly pleased for having made the event possible, and for giving 
the opportunity to a wide range of graduate students who came from 
various schools and with different backgrounds (from Italian Literature 
to Cinema, from Politicai Science to Art History, from History to Com- 
parative Literature) to present their work at our conference. 

Thus we accomplished at least our primary purpose: in fact we feel 
that in the realm of graduate studies there are many serious and prom- 
ising students who would deserve a better chance to introduce 
themselves and their research, and most importantly, to acquire virai 
academic experience. The publication of the Proceedings of the Con- 
ference will attest the encouraging success of such an attempt. In spite 
of some organizational inconveniences we had to overcome— due to 
time limitations and our lack of experience — , we believe in the inner 
value of this idea, and the large audience who attended the con- 
ference represents by itself a great reward. We hope that our initiative 
will meet your expectations and that other departments and universities 
will soon organize student conferences with the same spirit of open 

We would now like to thank, on behalf of ali the organizers, the 
Campus Program Committee which financed the conference, the direc- 


tor of the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles who kindly offered 
a reception, and the chairmen and directors of the departments who 
joined the initiative. 

A special thank goes to Prof. Geoffrey Symcox from the History 
Department, UCLA, for agreeing to commence the presentations with 
a speech on "The City as Theater: Public Ceremonies in Baroque Turin 
(1650 to 1750)". Finally we are grateful to Prof. Edward Tuttle, chair- 
man of the Italian Department at UCLA, for his consistent availability 
and supporr. 

Andrea Baldi and Tommaso Raso, 
Directors of the Conference 

Caricatura e carattere 
Una lettura del Candelaio 

There are hardly any nvo things more essentially different than character 
and caricature. W. Hogarth 

Il Candelaio del Bruno si presenta senz'altro, sin dalla denunzia della 
«vanità delle magiche superstizioni» nell'argomento della commedia\ 
come un'allegoria della superiorità dell'ari nova rinascimentale suH'jrj 
antiqua della tradizione medioevale. 

In questa prospettiva, la vicenda del Candelaio appare allora tutta 
compresa fra l'iniziale soliloquio di Bonifacio, ad esaltazione dell'arte 
magica, intesa, anacronisticamente, come potenza opposta alla natura, 
e come suo supplemento: 

L'arte supplisce al difetto della natura... Si dice che l'arte magica è di 
tanta importanza che contro natura fa ritornar gli fiumi a dietro, fissar 
il mare, ruggire i monti, intonar l'abisso, proibire il sole, despiccar la 
luna, sveller le stelle, toglier il giorno e far fermar la notte^; 

e la finale rivendicazione della dignità della magia naturalis, implici- 
tamente contenuta nelle parole di Gioan Bernardo: 

Le cose son talmente ordinate, che la natura non manca nel necessario, 
e non abonda in soverchio. Le ostreche non han piedi; perché, in qual 
si voglia parte del mar che si trovino, han tutto quello che basta a lor 
sustentamento, perché d'acqua sola, e del caldo del sole, — la cui 
virtude penetra in sino al profondo del mare, — si mantengono. Le talpe 


ancora non han occhi; perché la lor vita consiste sotto terra, e non vivono 
d'altro che di terra, e non posson perderla. A chi non ave arte, non si 
danno ordegni^ 

Non a caso, questa eloquente apologia è affidata al pittore Gioan 
Bernardo, trasparente incarnazione, qui, dell'Autore medesimo (basti 
guardare al nome); ma soprattutto, rappresentante di un'arte che 
doveva apparire al Bruno come l'esempio più abbagliante della possi- 
bilità di quella rifondazione integrale del sapere cui egli stesso mirava. 
Anche la specificità della beffa centrale del Candelaio, e la sua 
originalità rispetto alla più recente tradizione comica, è data dalla 
definizione del suo ideatore — Gioan Bernardo « pittore »"*, e non più 
semplice « dipintore », come Calandrino (beffato dai due altri « dipin- 
tori » Bruno e Buffalmacco), nel cui nome è già implicita un'allusione 
alla meccanicità della professione. ^ 

La filosofia « epicuraica »^ di Bernardo, artefice inesauribile di beffe 
(come suggerisce questo rapido scambio di battute: «GENICO. Oh! Voi 
sempre burlate / GIO. BERNARDO Sì, sì, burlo »)^, viene chiaramente 
contrapposta a quella del supposto mago Scaramuré — cui il credulo 
Bonifacio ricorre per ottenere le grazie della signora Vittoria — , capace 
di evocare, a suo dire, « le superstizioni di arte più profonda » della 
magia naturale;* e a quella dell'alchimista Cencio, entrambi, in realtà, 
volgari truffatori e semplici pappagalli, come il pedante Manfurio, di 
un lessico obsoleto. Queste figure non sono che l'ennesima variazione 
su personaggi tipici della polemica rinascimentale, contro i quali già 
Leonardo, ad esempio, si era scagliato (nei suoi frammenti «contro 
il negromante e l'alchimista »)9, e che erano stati frequente oggetto di 
satira nella commedia dell'epoca, dal Negromante dell'Ariosto 
2X\ Astrologo del Della Porta. Ma se, in questi precedenti, la beffa vale 
soprattutto a denunziare la vanità della (supposta) arte e la dabbe- 
naggine del credulo beffato, nel caso del Candelaio la beffa viene a 
confermare l'eccellenza dell'arte, poiché si it2XvLZ2i nei modi che le sono 
propri. Ciò che la beffa di Gioan Bernardo ai danni di Bonifacio pro- 
duce è difatti la sua caricatura. 

Bernardo soddisfa così, a suo modo, la commissione di un ritratto 
fattagli da Bonifacio, nel primo atto della commedia, ma ne beffa 
l'ignoranza e la vanità: il 'Candelaio' pretende difatti un ritratto, non 


solo somigliante, ma anzi tale da abbellirlo (« . . .per vita vostra, fatemi 
bello»)'". Il pittore mantiene burlescamente la promessa, e dona al suo 
modello « quel che gli manca »: così che alla fine del periodo di posa, 
per così dire, egli è « figurato veramente per Atteone, il quale, andando 
a caccia, cercava le sue corna, e, allor che pensò gioir de sua Diana, 
dovenne cervo»''. Gioan Bernardo si dimostra con ciò vero virtuoso 
dell'arte: la caricatura o ritratto carico è difatti un'altra invenzione del 
Rinascimento, legata, ancora una volta, al nome di Leonardo, ma pra- 
ticata metodicamente a partire dai Carracci, per divenire, poi, 
passatempo alla moda nel secolo successivo'^. 

Come hanno osservato Gombrich e Kris, è solo a partire dal Rinasci- 
mento italiano, in cui viene rimosso « the taboo which had once for- 
bidden the play with a person's likeness", e la credenza nel potere 
magico delle immagini è per la prima volta posta radicalmente in 
discussione, che «a free play with the representational image» può 
essere esperito come «funny»'^. Questo momento di transizione è 
registrato con estrema precisione nel Candelaio, dove, da un lato, il 
finto mago Scaramuré pretende di operare il suo incantesimo sulla 
signora Vittoria per mezzo di una « imagine di cera vergine, fatta in suo 
nome»'^; dall'altro, l'immoralità perturbante'^ del travestimento, 
denunziata, significativamente, dal pedante Manfurio: «Nisi urgente 
necessitate, nefas e ss et habitum proprium dimittere »'^^ — poiché 
(come osserva il Vignarolo ne Lo Astrologo) « il diventare un altro é una 
specie di morire»'"' — , si rivela invece risorsa comica irresistibile, ad 
esempio nel dialogo, quasi fichtiano, fra i due sosia Gioan Bernardo 
e Bonifacio: 

GIO. BERNARDO O io sono io, o costui è io... Olà, Messer de la negra 

barba, dimmi chi di noi due è io, io o tu? non rispondi? 

BONIFACIO Voi siete voi, ed io sono io. 

GIO. BERNARDO Come, io sono io? Non hai tu, ladro, rubbata la mia 

persona, e, sotto questo abito ed apparenzia, vai commettendo di 


Il legame della nuova tecnica della caricatura con la tradizione 
fisiognomica, rinata soprattutto grazie all'opera del Della Porta, era ben 
chiaro agli autori dell'epoca; basti qui la testimonianza di Thomas 
Browne, che nel 1690 scriveva: «When men's faces are drawn with 


rescmblance to some other animals, the Italians cali it to be drawn in 
Caricatura »^^. E indubbiamente il procedimento sperimentato dal Della 
Poaa, di accostare in una medesima tavola la figura di un uomo a quella 
di un animale, per consentire al lettore di rilevare con facilità la somi- 
glianza di determinati tratti delle due fisionomie, rappresenta l'ante- 
cedente più prossimo della « scoperta » che è alla base dell'invenzione 
della caricatura, e cioè che « similarity is not essential to likeness »2o. 

In due tavole del trattato del Della Porta (sicuramente noto al 
Bruno), l'immagine di Socrate, filosofo amante per eccellenza, viene 
accostata a quella del cervo, emblema della lussuria, secondo lo pseudo- 
Aristotele, autore del trattato classico sulla fisiognomica, che Della Porta 
così parafrasa: «Quelli c'hanno il naso simo [over schiacciato], sono 
libidinosi, e si riferiscono al Ceruo, perchè i Cerui sono simi, e molto 
lussuriosi, e perciò al tempo del coito divengono pazzi». A conva- 
lida di questa autorità. Della Porta allega anche quelle di Polemone 
e Adamantio, i quali attestano che «la simità del naso dà segno di 

La « metamfisicosi »" in cervo di Bonifacio — il Candelaio che 
« stiman tutti pazzo », e che è vittima del « tremor de l'amore » al solo 
pensiero di soddisfare le sue voglie con la cortigiana Vittoria^' — non 
potrebbe essere più chiaramente prefigurata. 

Per ottenere il ritratto carico di Bonifacio, Gioan Bernardo ricorre ad 
un ulteriore artificio, appena entrato a far parte del corredo del pittore 
rinascimentale: la camera obscura. 

Le origini di questo eponimo della fotografia sono imprecisabili, 
anche se una prima descrizione dello strumento si deve con certezza al 
filosofo arabo Alhazen, grande studioso di ottica — o perspectiva, 
secondo la dizione latina, prevalente a partire dal XIII secolo — e se 
Leonardo descrive ripetutamente nelle sue note di ottica tale apparato, 
da lui definito oculus artificialis , prendendolo a modello del funzio- 
namento dell'occhio umano. È nella Magia naturalis {X^'^'è) del Della 
Porta, tuttavia, che l'utilizzazione dello strumento a fini pittorici viene 
per la prima volta raccomandata^"^. 

Dopo aver descritto con straordinaria vividezza la preparazione della 
camera e il suo funzionamento: 


Per veder quelle cose in oscuro in una camera che sono fuori illuminate 
dal sole, e con i suoi colori, 

è bisogno che prima chiudiate le finestre della camera, e seria ancor 
meglio se si otturassero tutte le fissure, che non entrasse alcun lume 
dentro, destruesse tutta l'apparenza; buserai una fenestra, farai il buco 
della grossezza di un dito per lungo, e per largo, sopra vi accomoderai 
una tavoletta di piombo, ovvero di rame, e ce la incollerai, della gros- 
sezza di un cartone, nel cui mezo farai un buco rotondo della grossezza 
del dito picciolo della mano, all'incontro vi porrai lenzuola bianche, o 
panni biancheggiati, overo una carta; così tutte le cose che di fuori sono 
illuminate dal sole, le vedrai dentro, vedrai [che] coloro che passeggiano 
per le strade rivolti con la testa in giù come antipodi, e le cose destre ap- 
pariranno sinistre, e tutte le cose rivoltate^', 

il Della Porta ne suggerisce l'utilizzazione anche da parte del dilettante 
di pittura: 

Come alcuno che non sappia dipingere, possa disegnare l'effìgie d'un 
uomo o d'altra cosa, 

perché sappia solamente assomigliare i colori. E questo artifìcio non è 
da disprezzarsi. Dia il sole nella fenestra, et appresso quel buco porrai 
l'uomo, o l'imagini di quelle cose che vogliamo dipingere, che il sole 
illumini l'imagini, ma non il buco; al buco porrai incontro una carta 
bianca, e tanto andrai accomodando l'uomo al lume, avvicinando e 
dilungando, mentre vedrai la perfetta immagine di colui che voi retrarre 
sopra la tavola, allora quello che vorrà pingere, poni i colori sopra la 
tavola, dove appareno, del volto, della bocca, de gli occhi, e così di tutte 
le figure che appare, così partendosi qui l'oggetto, resterà la stampa nella 
carta, e si vedrà in questa come se la vedesti in un specchio. ^6 

Ma è, in generale, l'utilizzazione illusionistica della nuova inven- 
zione, in questo capitolo della sua opera interamente dedicato alle 
« mirabili visioni » producibili attraverso semplici giuochi di specchi, a 
premere maggiormente al Della Porta, i cui interessi teatrali sembrano 
occupare un posto nient'affatto secondario all'interno della sua multi- 
forme produzione letteraria^^. La camera obscura è infatti prima di tutto 
il luogo deputato alla beffa, il luogo dove l'inversione dell'immagine, 
la fata Morgana (sotto la cui egida Bruno pone, non a caso, la sua 
opera)28 si materializza a piacere. In particolare, la magia naturalis con- 


ferma così la sua superiore dignità, proprio nel luogo privilegiato delle 
operazioni alchemiche. Basti confrontare la descrizione che precede con 
quella, che della stanza necessaria alle sue magie fa l'astrologo 
Albumazar, — astrologo « che partecipa un poco del negromante, che 
pizzica dell'alchimista e del far molini»^^^ e che è niente più che un 
prestigiatore — nella commedia del Della Porta medesimo: 

Primieramente bisogna trovar una camera terrena che sia rivolta al 
levante, che è la più benigna parte del cielo; che non abbia finestre al 
ponente; ...che sia in tutto conversa al settentrione: ché...i cattivi influssi 
del cielo vengono da settentrione, che è la parte di dietro del cielo... 
E se pure la finestra settentrionale s'apre in qualche vicolo deserto, non 
sarebbe tanto cattiva... Or, declinando dalla goezia alla teurgia, farmacia, 
neciomanzia, negromanzia, arte notoria e altre vane e superstiziose 
scienze, ci attaccaremo all'arte prestigiatoria che illude e perstringe gli 
occhi, che fan vedere una cosa per l'altra... E perché la Luna è quel 
pianeta in cielo che si transforma di più forme... ci serviremo di quella 
nella nostra operazione... perché con quel suo mostrarsi in varie forme, 
mostra agli uomini d'intelletto che ella sola può fare questa maraviglio- 
sissima metamorfosi... Onde bisogna ornare prima quella camera di 
drappi bianchi finissimi leggeri, e se fossero di tela d'argento, assai 
meglio; terra coperta di lini bianchi e sottili... che con tal bianchezza 
e purità si allettano li influssi lunari, perché questo apparecchio si fa per 
la Luna.^° 

« The earliest /'/^<^/zj"^é'<3(' account of the camera obscura »^^ è contenuto 
in una nota alla prima traduzione italiana del trattato De Architectura 
di Vitruvio, pubblicata nel 1521 da Cesare Cesariano, allievo di Leo- 
nardo, che ne fa uso per elucidare il termine spectaculum, usato da 
Vitruvio per designare, secondo l'interpretazione di Cesariano, il 
foro di forma conica attraverso cui le immagini del mondo esterno 
trascorrono, per materializzarsi poi, all'interno della camera oscura, su 
di uno schermo appositamente predisposto. Spectaculum è dunque 
tanto il medium quanto l'effetto dell'illusione, così come la penombra 
è solo il preludio necessario al pieno dispiegarsi della luce: Carubina, 
moglie di Bonifacio, raccomanda alla ruffiana Lucia (facile etimologia, 
questa) di allontanare tutte le fonti di luce dalla stanza, dove Bonifacio, 
travestito da Bernardo, spera di incontrare la signora Vittoria, e di 


sopravvenire solo ad un segnale convenuto: « Quando saranno queste 
più solenne terze strida, correrete voi di casa con i lumi: e cossi, tutti 
insieme, ne conosceremo alla luce, con la grazia di S[anta] Lucia »^2 
Come messer Nicia nella Mandragola, anche Bonifacio prende 
«lucciole per lanterne »33, e viene meritamente beffato. Dopo essere 
passato attraverso la camera ob scura della signora Vittoria, ed essersi 
rispecchiato nel suo beffatore — della cui bellezza egli si è potuto 
impossessare solo per un attimo: « oggi mi parete più bello che mai », 
osserva Lucia prima di introdurlo nella stanza, dove lo sorprenderà 
invece Carubina)^^ — ^ Bonifacio è ormai pronto a trasformarsi letteral- 
mente nel suo ritratto veridico. Anche alla caricatura, come alla beffa, 
è infatti d'uopo una vittima; e nessun animale è più prono al sacri- 
ficio del cervo, « placidissimum animalium», secondo la definizione 
di Plinio35. 

Davide Stimilli 

Department of Comparative Literature 

Yale University 


1. Giordano Baino, // Candelaio, in Commedie del Cinquecento, a cura di Nino 
Borsellino, voi. 2, Feltrinelli, Milano 1967, p. 296. 

2. Bruno, Candelaio, pp. 314-315. 

3. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 434. Cfr. anche l'enigmatica raccomandazione di Gioan 
Bernardo a Bonifacio nella scena Vili del I atto: « ...lasciate l'arte antica » (p. 327). 

4. Cfr. la sua orgogliosa presentazione di sé, in fine di commedia: « La mia arte 
è di depengere, e donar a gli occhii de' mundani la imagine di Nostro Signore, di 
Nostra Madonna e d'altri Santi di paradiso» (Bruno, Candelaio, p. 444). 

5 . « Secondo il Vasari. . . « calandrino » era una squadra di legno adoperata da pittori 
e scalpellini » (Boccaccio, Decameron, a cura di C. Segre, Mursia, Milano 1966, p. 479). 

6. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 300. 

7. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 332. 

8. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 328. 

9. Vedine il testo in Leonardo da Vinci, Scritti letterari, a cura di A. Marmoni, 
Rizzoli, Milano 1974, pp. 161-168. 

10. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 326. 

11. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 327, 301. 


12. Vedi E. H. Gombrich, « Leonardo 's Grotesque Heads », in The Heritage of 
Apelles, Oxford UP, London 1976; E. H. Gombrich-E. Kris, Caricature, Penguin, Har- 
mondsworth 1940. 

13. E. Kris (with E. H. Gombrich), «The Principles of Caricature », in E.Kris, 
Psychoanalyttcal Explorattons in Art, Schocken, New York 1974, p. 202. 

14. Bruno, Candelaio, pp. 355-356. 

15. Cfr. il saggio hofmanniano di Freud, da cui anche le indagini di Kris ovviamente 

16. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 375. 

17. G. B. Della Porta, Lo Astrologo, in Le Commedie, a cura di V. Spampanato, 
voi. II, Laterza, Bari 1911, p. 325. 

18. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 411. 

19. Cit. in C. R. Ashbee, Caricature, Scribner's Sons, New York 1928, p. 32. 

20. Gombrich-Kris, Caricature, p. 12. 

2 1 . Fisonomia/ dell' Huomo, /et la celeste Idi Gio: Battista Della Porta. /Libri sei. 
Un Venezia M.DC.LII, p. 174. 

22. Bruno, Cabala del cavallo pegaseo, in Dialoghi italiani , voi. II, p. 885. 

23. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 447, 403 

24. Cfr. Helmut Gernsheim, The Origins ofPhotography, Thames and Hudson. 
New York 1982, pp. 7-11. 

25. G. B. Della Porta, Della Magia Naturale, libro XVII, cap. VI, in Scritti di ottica, 
a cura di V. Ronchi, Il Polifilo, Milano 1968, p. 170. 

26. Della Porta, Della Magia Naturale, p. 172. 

27. Cfr. a sostegno di questa tesi, Louise G. Clubb, Giambattista Della Porta 
Dramatist, Princeton UP, Princeton 1965; per la posizione contraria, N. Borsellino, 
« Nota introduttiva » a La Fantesca, in Commedie del Cinquecento, voi. II, p. 455. 

28. Vedi supra.. 

29. Della Porta, Lo Astrologo, p. 307. 

30. Della Porta, Lo Astrologo, pp. 328-330. 

31. Gernsheim, Origins, p. 10. 

32. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 396. 

33. Cfr. Machiavelli, Mandragola, atto V, scena II: «NICIA: buio lo menai 
in camera, messilo al letto; ed innanzi che mi partissi, volli toccare con mano come 
la cosa andava, che io non sono uso ad essermi dato ad intendere lucciole per lanterne ». 

34. Bruno, Candelaio, p. 404. 

35. « Placidissimu(m) animalium », secondo Plinio {Nat.hist., VIII, 50). 

That Awful Mess, Life: 
The Language of Gadda 's Quer pasticciaccio . 

Like those prototypical modernists, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, 
Carlo Emilio Gadda poses a stylistic challenge never fully met by writers 
who follow. But I believe we must look beyond the formai sphere to 
comprehend Gadda's insistent experimentation; bis linguistic 
manipulations reveal a psychological and socio-political contradiction. 
My notion, simply put, is that the rage driving Gadda's texts is not so 
much, as critics bave suggested, a failed idealism but rather a kind of 
fatalism or determinism based on the very paradigm he was rejecting. 

In their manifestoes, the Italian Futurists welcomed war as a kind of 
"hygiene" that would rid the world of everything they considered out- 
moded and unhealthy — which included women and the feminine in 
general. Futurism gave the world cultural representations of a new 
order, portrayed as a progressive and scientific project, that fascism 
would attempt to bring to life. 

The self-presentation of the Fascist regime's goals came to dominate 
the politicai life of Italy for nearly two decades. Their social program 
privileged the Family as the unit for reproducing as many children 
as possible (ma/e children, of course, since the program was integrally 
tied to an imperialist militarism.) In Quer pasticiacchio brutto de via 
Merulana, Gadda pours contempi on this notion; yet the contemporary 
reader may detect, in this loose and truncated chronicle of detection, 
the very concepts it attacks. 

While claiming to despise the Fascist reproduction program, which 



relegates women to a biologically determincd role, Gadda seems 
possessed, at least metaphorically, by this application of biological 
determinism. As critics rightly point out, the text depicts people 
through a web of biological processes. But the most highly charged and 
visceral reality in the text is that of '^ Fenditure \ Female characters 
are focused upon most specifically in relation to their reproductive 
& sexual organs and functions. 

Pasticciaccio' s female characters are, to put it simply, fascinating. 
Wealthy, refined, melancholy Liliana Balducci — the narrative 's centrai 
victim — fascinates inspector Ingravallo, the novel's "protagonist." As 
objects of fascination, women in this novel are portrayed in excruciating 
detail — visual, olfactory, sociological, psychological, sartorial — from a 
clinical description of the fine lace undergarments and delicate exposed 
skin of Liliana's corpse, to a long gaze (multiple and masculine) at an 
unkempt but beautiful Street urchin during her interrogation, to an 
obsessive evocation of a gob of saliva hanging from the mouth of the 
hag-like Zamira. 

Females seem to represent in this hook a procreative imperative, an 
obscene proliferative capacity associated with the vegetai order. Fecund 
and regurgitative (like Zamira's spittle), they fascinate because they 
repulse, reflecting the ad hoc, contingent nature of reality. Gadda 
claimed that bis "baroque" literary style merely reflected life's arbitrary 
winding futility. His writing proceeds by a series of digressions that may 
be seen as attempts to track down "life" as an orderly process. The 
underlying feeling is despair at ever fìnding equilibrium within the 
frightful anarchy of nature. His cornucopia of imagery constitutes a 
neurotic fixation upon the female, attempting to fix her in an assigned 
iconographic role which — I am suggesting — parallels her assigned social 
role within fascism. 

In / viaggi la morte Gadda writes: "La lingua, specchio di totale 
essere, e del totale pensiero, viene da una cospirazione di forze, intel- 
letuali o spontanee, razionali o istintive..." We may thus see in his 
language a reflection of his thought, with ali the archeologies and con- 
tradictions to which the mind is prone. In the same hook he speaks of 
language as a "lavoro coUectivo" Gadda's texts displays that "carni- 
valizing" impulse towards the interpenetration of registers which 
Bakhtin saw as integrai to the novel's vitality. Gadda's employment 


of the speech modes of various strata of Italian society does indeed partly 
give voice to these. The text sHdes ceaselessly among different hnguis- 
tic registers, with only one interlude of poise. This comes during the 
interrogation of a beautiful girl named Ines. While Ines, dressed in dirty 
rags, is under scrutiny by the policemen, the tone alters into some- 
thing like compassion for "a poor girl over whom life has poured so 
much misery." 

An astonishing range of imagery and registers comes into play. The 
economy of Gadda 's prose is one of over-production, a potlatch. But 
it's not 1 jouissance implying the sense of unfettered play and gener- 
osity; the excess bere seems to issue from desperation. Manufactured 
as a linguistic simulacrum of the world in its overwhelming variety and 
indecipherability, the text may represent a mimetic protective fetish. 

Admitting into its orbit speech genres from different levels of society, 
Gadda's linguistic performance is also a vehicle for bis "politicai 
unconscious", the ideology that prevailed in Italy during bis formative 
years. The work is compulsively, obsessively, even explicitly about 
language. With this in mind, let us examine some of the language of 
Quer Pasticciacio Brutto de Via Merulana. 

The first crime in this "detective story" is the theft of a great deal 
of expensive jewelry from the Countess Menegazzi. Her name under- 
scores what I would point to as a key to Gadda's attitude toward the 
female. She is, literally, "minus testicles" [mene — meno — minus / 
gazzi — cazzi]. In American vernacular she has "no balls."' Instead, she 
has a box full of valuable jewelry. These jewels form the "prey" (or 
fetish) for the long, circuitous bunt that is the narrative thread of this 
hook. At the same time, both the specifìc jewels and wealth in general 
are strongly identified with excrement. 

In the early pages of the novel the jewels are robbed from "quel 
sacrario di memorie" the bedroom of the "blonde countess". In the 
final pages they are discovered hidden in a chamber pot in the filthy 
hovel of a young woman referred to several times as "la patata". Mov- 
ing from rich widow to poor peasant girl, from Venetian refinement 
to Lazian vegetai squalor, from tbird floor urban apartment to turai 
shack, the story makes a long trajectory from high to low, fixated upon 
the ersatz or sublimated female genitalia, the jewels. 


Folk wisdom characterizes a wife as a treasure chest, connotationally 
combining the sexual and economie aspects of the institution of mar- 
riage and the role of Wife. Jewels or a jewel box thus signify both wealth 
and private parts. In the case of both the countess's stolen jewelry and 
the jewelry Liliana bestows upon her young cousin before her death, 
it ìs a pretty boy who springs them loose from their female possessor. 
The murderer may or may not be one of these boys. 

Mythical associations are consistently evoked in relation to the con- 
tested metals and stones. Other descriptions of the treasure — such as 
the police-dossier inventory of the stolen goods — employ scientific and 
bureaucratic terms, undercutting and ironizing mythical proportions 
accrued in the other register. The most notable mythic scene is an 
extended dream sequence unexpectedly remembered by Sergeant 
Pestalozzi as he rides a scooter down from a high hilly area. A topaze 
goes through a series of transformations: pazzo — topazzio — giallazo- 
topo-topaccio — girasole — sole — disco maligno — ruota — fanale... and 
so on, culminating up in a bacchanalian dance with a Circe-like 
"enchantress". It ends its animated fugue by climbing up the legs and 
into the groin of a dancing contessa, towards (what else?) an all- 
encompassing "cleft". 

In this hallucinogenic extravaganza, Pestalozzi, who is Inspector 
Ingravallo's assistant, becomes an extension of the narrator's persona. 
In fact, most of the men in this text seem to be "doubles" for the nar- 
rator and by extension, Gadda. Sergeant Santarella, who lives with nine 
women in bis household, is described as awash in a sea of females. This 
seems to be the author's position too, awash in a sea of excess, sur- 
rounded by the swirl of a fecundity regarded as essentially "feminine", 
rich, fascinating and threatening. 

Two crimes (a jewel theft and a murder) form the backbone of this 
story. Their site, an apartment building on via Merulana, is known in 
the neighborhood as the "palace of gold" because it is home to several 
rich families whose wealth comes from business speculation during 
the First World War (the story is set in 1926.) These nouveau riche 
are called "sharks" in the locai argot, implying a certain ferocity in 
the methods by which their wealth was obtained. With Gadda, there 
is little possibility of an interpretation in terms of "class consciousness". 


Although he ìs acutely aware of class diffcrences, this attention is at the 
service of a vision not of social conflict in a struggle for justice but of 
chaotic and meaningless difference ordained by who knows what fate 
or destiny. 

"Fate" crops up with great frequency in Gadda's dense and ani- 
mated text. He invokes the "field of the forces of destiny" and calls 
Italy a "fatai peninsula", alluding to "l'inetto buratino del probabile". 
"Era scritto che il diciannove de via Merulana, il palazzo del oro, o 
dei pescicani che fosse, era scritto che doveva fiorire anche lui un bel 
fiore..." When Ingravallo goes out to San Marino, Gadda's lyrical 
evocation of the beautiful Roman morning is considerably undercut by: 
"Era una giornata meravigliosa... di quelle cosi splendidamente romane 
che perfino uno statale di ottavo grado... pure quello se sente... un 
quarche cosa che risomija a la felicità." As if the bureaucratic level 
of the policeman's career were a state of being, a fate, that precluded 
certain emotions. 

This sense of predestination is particularly associated with the female 
characters or women in general. For example, the passage describing 
the state of mind of the widow Menegazzi before the intruder arrives 
and robs her jewels: "come tutte le donne sole in casa" [viveva in] 
"anticipazione del quale, dai e dai, no potè' a meno, 
alfine, di arrivare davvero anche lui." When Ingravallo arrives at the 
scene of Liliana's murder, before he enters the building, a circle of 
neighborhood women are discussing the unluckiness of certain 
numbers. And, as Ingravallo interrogates people at the scene of the 
crime, Menegazzi intones repeatedly "er dixiesete e el pejor numero" 
(This notion of unlucky numbers also figures strongly in the plot ofLa 
cognizione del dolore.) 

Finally, l'd like to take note of a certain contrast between two types 
of characters and descriptive registers in this hook. As if the social/ men- 
tal landscape were divided thus: 

Indoors = bourgeois, bureacuratic, mercantile, sterile. That is, Lili- 
ana, the cops, even Zamira, who is a predatory businesswoman. Out- 
doors = an outsider point of view, criminal, deviant, the countryside 
(now suburbs) of Rome and its "primitive" inhabitants, implicit or 
explicit classical landscapes, ali that is left of archaic and barbarian Italy 
(reminiscent of some of Pasolini 's associations with these concepts.) In 


a sense this hook is an apotheosis of class (or gender) conflict, except 
that the differences are seen as essential and eternai. 

The primitive, squalid, poor from the sub-urbs steal from and 
murder the urban rich. If, for example, we viewed this plot through 
a classical iconography — in which representation of gender difference 
was often coded by color: pale skin for women and bronzed skin for 
men, it might be read as the mascoline (outdoor) turning against the 
feminine (indoor). But I believe that the poor, as representatives 
of anarchy, proliferation and uncontroUability, are identified with 
the feminine by Gadda in this work. The latter elements take revenge 
on the former. Hence the latent but profound anxiety expressed by 
this text. 

The representation of women in this novel seems to be inextricably 
tied to prevailing, deeply coded notions of Woman as Other, as a part 
of a "Nature" that threatens to undermine and devour Man, who is, 
at every point, synonymous with civilization. Mussolini was a man of 
action who employed the rhetoric of Progress . . . at the service of a 
reactionary return to the "values" of the Roman empire. The futility 
implied and fostered by fascism is perhaps the futility of struggle by 
those who are "weaker". In the case of the traditionally "weaker" sex, 
the struggle is far more complex, for it is representation and roles within 
the system of dominant culture which demand the kind of deconstruc- 
tion an instance of which 1 bave bere tried to demonstrate. 

Marina deBellagente LaPalma 


1. There is some basis for concluding that Menagazzi's name implies that she, being 
a widow, is deprived of a phallus (or, more precisely, of her husband's/'é'ww.) However, 
my point bere is not to uncover Gadda's possible, intended or likely meanings. What 
I am interested in is a broader, perhaps less clear-cut but more enduring set of associa- 
tions underlying bis choices. The discursive conflation of "penis" with "testicles" has 
an illustrious precedent in Freud's discussions of what he comes to cali the "castra- 
tion complex". At any rate, it is the conflation of "penis" v^'xxh phallus — occurring 
at opportune moments and vehemently denied at other junctures — which is far more 
problematic for criticai theory. 



Dombroski, Robert S. "Moral Committment and Invention in Gadda's Poetics" Rivista 
di letteratura moderna comparativa 25 , 1972, #3 (Val. 25, ttS}- 

Ferrerò, Emesto. Invito alla lettura di CE. Gadda. Milano: Mursia, 1972. 

Cataneo, G. Il Gran Lombardo . Milano: Garzanti, 1973. 

McConnell, Joan. A Vocabulary Analysis of Gadda's Pasticciaccio. Mississippi: Univer- 
sity of Miss. Romance Monograph Series, 1973. 

Merry, Bruce C. "The Sound of Revenge in Gadda's Prose". Romance Quarterly. 
Voi. 36 #4, Nov. 1989. 

Narrative and Drama — Essays in Modem Italian Literature from Verga to Pasolini. The 
Hague: Mouton, 1976 

Ragusa, Olga. "Gadda, Pasolini and Experimentalism: Form or Ideology?" 

Seroni, Adriano. Il Castoro (Mensile, diretto da Franco Mollia) # 36, Ottobre, 1973. 
Firenze: La Nuova Italia. 

Carlo Emilio Gadda. L'Adalgisa: Disegni Milanesi. Torino: Einaudi, 1972. 

ìji cognizione del dolore. Torino: Einaudi, 1963. 

Acquainted with Grtef. New York: Braziller, 1969. Translated by William Weaver. 

Eros e Priapo. Milano: Garzanti, 1975. 

La madonna dei filosofi. Torino: Einaudi, 1971. 

Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana. Milano: Garzanti, 1957. 

That Awful Mess on Via Merulana. London: Quartet Books, 1985. Translated by 

William Weaver. 
1 viaggi la morte . Milano: Garzanti, 1958. 

*'And What is There to See in an Old Picture?'' 

The concept of the museum in Early futurist manifestos 

I cannot accept that our sorrows, our fragile courage . . . should be taken 
for daily walks through the museum. (Founding Manifesto, 1909) 

When Futurism emerged on the cultural arena in 1909 its main goal 
was to dismiss the meaning of ali earlier achievements, to repudiate any 
link to past or existent traditions so that it could to start anew, with 
a clean slate, to "emerge naked from the river of time"'. The tabula 
rasa, proclaimed so ostentatiously by the futurists as their only "foun- 
dation", was not only a rhetorical device, but also a meaningful opera- 
tional mechanism in their strategy. In a country were tradition was a 
fundamental factor in defining the aesthetic standard a fresh begin- 
ning was, the Futurists bave argued, the only mode of surpassing the 
perpetuai value system. Yet, rejecting the past was neither a new ele- 
ment in the cultural discourse, nor an entirely novel strategy. Futurism 
was able however, from the very beginning, to understand the wide 
ranging implications this open repudiation of cultural values would 
bave, and, with forcefulness and ingenuity, to use the fullest impact 
of this denial to suggest the superiority of its innovative elements. 

"We will flght with ali our might the fanatical, senseless and snob- 
bish religion of the past."^ With inflammatory and incisive statements 
the futurists openly acknowledged throughout their existence the 
necessity to renounce the perception of the past and tradition as essen- 
tial elements in the cultural discourse, and overtly discarded the validity 



of their cohesive and coherent attributes. As early as 1909, the Found- 
ing Manifesto poweifully, and undeniably, projected the futurist stance 
towards past and tradition. In a bombastic style, and with open, auda- 
cious, and rebellious statements, supported by carefully orchestrated 
hidden metaphors and graphic allegories, the text authoritatively 
argued for a total breakaway from the pre-existent, imposed, cultural 
boundaries, arbitrarily determinated by "the eternai, futile worship of 
the past"5. This "cry of rebellion"^, was not directed to a single field, 
but to Italian culture as a whole. The innovative factor of this abrupt 
rupture and discontinuity, is to be found not only in Futurism's idio- 
syncratic rhetoric, but also in the particularities of the national context 
in which this movement was born. 

The museum emerges as early as the Founding Manifesto as the most 
powerful and encompassing metaphor of the past. The metaphor is 
decodified in a later text where the futurists stated more overtly that 
the "religion of the past [has been] encouraged by the vicious presence 
of the museums"5. In the context of the First manifesto analogies, — 
a favorite attribute of futurist visual and textual vocabulary — are used 
toclariiy the meaningof the metaphor. "Museums: cemeteries! . . . ." 
Equating in this condensed statement a venerated cultural institution 
with death, the futurists openly rejected the validity and the vitality 
of existing taste and acknowledged their aim to formulate an artistic 
program which wouid challenge the past and look for innovative alter- 
natives.6 It is significant to point out bere that while the Founding 
manifesto was essentially intended to establish a literary movement, it 
is in the visual arts that Marinetti found the most evocative examples.^ 
The futurists argued that the museums, "these reinforced-concrete 
buildings"», project a staged, redundant and arbitrary inner narrative. 

Museums . . . Identical, surely, in the promiscuity of so many bodies 
unknown to one another. Museums: public dormitories where one lies 
forever besides hated or unknown beings. Museums: absurd abattoirs of 
painters and sculptors ferociously slaughtering one another with colours 
and lines along fought-over walls!^ 

Separated from the "miracles of contemporary life" behind a con- 
structed, artificial facade, the museum, the futurists argued, is a focal 


source of perpetuating existent values and suppressing any innovative 
element. "And what is there to see in an old painting ... ? Admir- 
ing an old painting is like pouring our sensibility into a funerary urn 
instead of projecting it into the distance.''^^ The Constant jiixtaposition 
of the museum and death is intended to suggest even more dramatically 
the dichotomy between this institution and "the surrounding environ- 
ment . . . the frantic life of our great cities"^^ While the museum 
appears to bave a coherent, progressive, and logicai inner structure, this 
dichotomy is the source of the museum 's unchangeable aesthetic values. 
"[H]iding behind a facade of false modernity . . . they [the museums] 
are actually ensnared by tradition, academism and, above ali, a nause- 
ating cerebral laziness."^^ ^hg stagnation inherent in the museum 's 
discourse is also the originator of its isolation. However, the futurists 
argue that the museum 's authoritative position allows its immobile 
inner structure to become a unique aesthetic standard which is imposed 
and disseminated to a large audience. "[T]he pubhc always sees as it 
has been taught to see, through eyes wrapped by routine. "'^ The futur- 
ists were eager to suggest to the audience to look "upon nature and 
not upon the museum as the one and only standard' ' .^^ It is not only 
in this text that the futurists address the audience directly by suggesting 
that the museum has the power to impose its aesthetic standard. In the 
1912 "Manifesto of Futurist Literature", Marinetti's argument for the 
dismantling of the "I" is based on the suggestion that "the inner self 
[of the individuai] was destroyed by the library and the museum." 
The notion of death is the pivotal element in constructing the 
metaphor of the museum as it is the key of the concept of the "master- 
piece" and "immortai" artists. A contemporary writer, Mario Morasso 
has also pointed out in bis criticai analysis of the 1904 Venice Biennale, 
that the category of "Dead artists" v^as an important part of the clas- 
sification within the exhibition structure of the Venetian exhibition^^ 
Indeed the futurists wanted to underline that this "fanatical worship 
of ali that is old and worm-eaten"^^, projected by the inner structure 
and the narrative of the museum is enhancing a perception of an abso- 
lute aesthetic value, based exclusively on previous cultural discourse. 
The artists and the artworks, apparently so coherently represented by 
the linear progression outlined by the narrative of the exhibition space, 


are in fact heightening the artificiality of the aesthetic discourse of the 
museum. The doublé "death" of the artist — first in a literal sense, and 
secondly in a symbolic one as part of a constructed realm — , is ironically 
at the same time, the originator of artistic "immortality". Within the 
inner structure of the museum the "immortality" of the artist becomes 
the most valuable attribute in staging the qualities of the "eternai" 
masterpiece. The relationship between death, past, immortality and 
the "aura" of originality and superiority that are given within the 
cultural discourse is heightened by Papini in a direct and sarcastic way. 

It is certain that many people in front of whom we bend . . . with 
respect, our hat in our band, . . . would be valued very differently had 
they been among us today . . . The genius who lives likes us . . . does 
seem to resemble a "genius" [as his image] is too contradictory to the 
rhetoric. Death is necessary so that the distance can create the halo and 
the legend that is needed.*^ 

Moreover, the "passion fot eternai things, a desire for immortai, 
imperishable masterworks"'* which, by recycling the same aesthetic 
values, allows the stagnation of the inner discourse of the museum, (and 
of culture) and becomes the major impediment to any cultural reju- 
venation. The almost religious reverence for the past, present in Italian 
cultural discourse, is very articulately presented in a contemporary criti- 
que of the Founding Manifesto, published in France, in which the 
author acknowledges that "In Italy you cannot make a step without 
bumping imo a dead [body] ... a famous dead. They live in a per- 
petuai church where everything is sacred . . . "^^ 

The concept of "death" has not only a unifying quality but also 
bears some similarities to Barthes' disjunction between the artist /author 
and the artwork. In Futurism, the entire structure of the museum is 
expanded symbolically to represent the authoritative symbiosis of the 
immortality of both the artist and the masterpiece. In this process both 
the "author" and the "eternai masterpiece" are displaced from their 
originating source, and yet in this new, staged structure they construct 
the most persuasive forum of supreme, definite value. Unquestionable, 
static, and above ali unique and unattainable, eternai values become 
the common denominator of the inner narrative of the museum. This 
apparent cohesiveness of the museum, based however solely on past. 


recognized, artistic vocabulary, heightens its aesthetic vision of "art- 
as-ideal, art-as-sublime-holy-inaccessible . . . art-as-torment-purity- 
vow-solitude-disdain for reaiity"2o. 

It is interesting to compare the futurist deconstruction of the 
museum, with recent analysis, by Derrida, Foucault, Preziosi and 
Weber, among others, of the development and structure of various 
cultural institutions, and their mode of operating within society. ^i 
There are signiflcant similarities between the authoritative aesthetic 
standard of the museum and the notion of the "artist/author" de- 
scribed by Foucault in "What is an Author?". Moreover the futurists 
recognize, in an almost Derridean fashion, the "abyss [that exists] 
between these docile slaves of past tradition and [them] free moderns, 
who are confident in the radiant splendour of [their] time".^^ Preziosi 's 
analysis of the development of the Fogg museum in the late 19th cen- 
tury, underlines how the concern for creating a coherent system based 
on classifications triggers the structure its archive to be constructed as 
"historical and genealogical narratives, fixing historical, geographic, 
and media boundaries. . . . [T]he evolving system was grounded in 
a notion of periodicization metaphorized after Vasarian framework of 
the-man-and/as-his-work."23 Similarly, Morasso as early as 1904, has 
perceived this desire to define clear categories and divisions being 
detrimental to the structure of the Venice Biennale, and later the 
futurists would perceive it as an inherent problem in museums. More- 
over, the futurists would argue that this interest in creating divisions, 
for defining and reinforcing limits and borderlines, would generate a 
type of "labelling" among contemporary artists that would bave only 
a negative impact in the development of the artist. 

And about our esteemed "specialists"? Throw them ali out. Finish them 
off! The Portraitists, the Gente Painters, the Lake Painters, the Moun- 
tain Painters. We have put enough with these impotent painters . . . 
phoney ceramists, sold-out poster painters, idiotic illustrators^^ 

While in the Founding Manifesto the futurists do not elaborate on 
the extend of the "damages of daily round[s] of the museum, libraries 
and academies (cemeteries of vain effort)"25, in later texts they openly 
acknowledge that the "spineless worshipping of old canvases, old 
statues and old bric-a brac, . . . of everything which is worm-ridden 


and corroded by time"^^ is an impcdiment for the promotion and 
acceptancc of new art and youngcr artists. In the manifesto of Futurist 
painters the tone is vociferous and the metaphors and allegories are 
replaced by a direct attack using laconic, yet striking sentences. 

Ask these priests of a veritable religious cult, these guardians of old 
aesthetic laws, where can we go and see the works of Giovanni Segantini 
today. Ask them why the officials of the Commission have never heard 
of the existence of Gaetano Previati. Ask them where they can see 
Medardo Rosso's sculptures, or who takes the slightest interest in artists 
who have not yet had twenty years of struggle and suffering behind 
them, but are stili producing works destined to honour their fathedand?^^ 

The museum should be perceived in futurist texts in an allegorica! 
sense, as it symbolizes other institutions with a "passeist" character: 
academies, libraries, "museums and cemeteries of mummified syllo- 
gism."2^ The inner immobility and stagnation, the basis and coherence 
of the museum's inner structure, is allegorically expanded by the 
futurists to gigantic proportions, encompassing cities and the entire 
country. Venice was particularly targeted by the futurists in their mani- 
festos. With offensive statements and striking analogies, these texts 
intended to highlight not oniy the encompassing values of the notions 
of past and tradition, the stage-like artificial structure of the city, but 
also the diametrically opposed, innovative character of Futurism. 

The manifestoes addressed to Venice, a declamatory cali for rejec- 
ting the flxed myth constructed by the city, are among the best exam- 
ples of Futurism 's capacity of working as an effective and efficient 
advertising campaign. Disseminated in traditional forms, such as jour- 
nals and books, read in conferences and mailed to most European 
newspapers, the text of "Against Passeist Venice" was made available 
to the public in the most innovative mode to date. On 27 Aprii 1910, 
800.000 copies of the text, — an astonishing number even by a xerox 
and computer age standard, — werc scattered from the top of the Tower 
in Piazza San Marco. 

We repudiate ancient Venice, . . . exhausted and ravaged . . . market 
of antiquarian fakers . . . great sewer of tradition. We want to heal this 
rotting city, magnificent sore of the past.^^ 


It is difficult to evaluate what was more shocking to the Venetians: 
the text, or the novel means by which it was disseminateci. Only two 
months later, however, Boccioni had an exhibition in Venice, at 
Ca' Pesaro, and Marinetti did not miss the occasion to further promote 
the futurist ideas in that city. At the Fenice theater in Venice the 
futurists presented, in the format of the serate, the text of "Futurist 
Speech to the Venetians". With similar aggressivity the text projected 
the futurist vision of the city's facade immersed in the past. 

Venetians! Venetians! Why would you want stili and forever he faithful 
slaves of Past, the nurses of the saddest hospital in the world, where 
dying souls, poisoned by the virus of sentimentalism are languishing.'o 

Here again, the visual arts are the key in deconstructing the museum- 
like staging of the city. Venice is a city of "old paintings", "fake anti- 
quarians", "imitators and plagiarists". The notion of death is, again, 
a centrai element in projecting the artificiality of pre-existent, a struc- 
ture whose pattern and coherence is based exclusively on past aesthetic 
values. Direct and offensive, without leaving any room for subtleties 
the text denounces the "romantic", "sentimental" facade of the city 
which "murmurs invitations to ali visitors of the world. "^i 

Shouldn't I compare your gondoliers to grave diggers, who dig in a 
rhythm, deep pits in a flooded cemetery?^^ 

What is been dismissed here is not the city as a whole, but rather 
its constructed facade, which becomes an impediment for Venice to live 
in the present. Contrary to what seems to be suggested by these texts, 
the futurists do not lack the respect and reverence inspired by the genu- 
ine cemeteries. In fact they argue that even those spaces bave not been 
spared from the artificiality of the cultural discourse. "Down with ali 
marble-chippers who are cluttering up . . . and profaning our ceme- 
teries! "^3 Xo enhance even more its symbolic value within the cultural 
discourse, the allegory of the museum is extended to the whole coun- 
try. Not only is Italy covered with "museums like so many graveyards", 
but Italy itself becomes a "land of the dead, a vast Pompeii, white with 
sepulchres" with frxed aesthetic values. Indeed these analogies are pro- 
jected on to the state of Italian culture, a culture where, the futurists 
argue, "the traditional aesthetic laws reigned supreme "^4 


I should point out, howcver, that the futurists werc not the first to 
challenge the institutionalized aesthetic values of museum. As early as 
the mid 19th century, Baudelaire, without dismissing the vahdity of 
this institution, had, however, perceived the limitations imposed by 
the Salon, and imphcitly of the Academy, as well as the consequences 
of exdusively studying past traditions. More blatant are the comments 
made by artists as different as Courbet, Pissarro, Cezanne, or Nolde 
who have acknowledged the shifting role of the museum within the 
artistic discourse of the late 19th and the early 20th century. Cezanne 
moderately stated that the Louvre should be only an intermediary, and 
that the artist must free oneself from ali schools. Courbet 's rhetorical, 
yet blunt proposition, foreshadowing the futurist rhetoric, that a "vast 
bonfire should be made of the Louvre and ali its contents" was similar 
in both tone and content to that of Pissarro, who has suggested that 
"ali necropoles of art should be burned." Equally significant is Nolde 's 
comment in a 1912 text which echoes and parallels futurists' concerns. 
"Our museums are becoming larger and fuller, and they are growing 
fast. I am no friend of these vast agglomerations, which suffocate us 
with their size."^^ 

I do not want to suggest bere that the dismissal of the museum as 
a focal aesthetic standard was widely expressed by others, rather I want 
to point out again Futurism's ability not only to synthesize previously 
introduced ideas, but also to present them with an unprecedented 
forcefulness in accessible, yet memorable laconic phrases. Once again 
Futurism's aim to reach a mass audience with an advertising-like 
mechanism, proved to be an efficient tactic. There are very few who 
recali Pissarro, Nolde's or even Courbet's stance towards the museum, 
while the futurists' view became a "stigma" which, too often, has over- 
shadowed the profound implications of their theory. 

"We will destroy the museums . . . Turn aside the canals to flood 
the museums! . . . Oh! the joy of seeing the glorious old canvases bob- 
bing adrift . . . ì"^^ Needless to say this never happened, nor had the 
futurists actually intended to do so. However, the rebellious stance of 
Futurism was neither gratuitous nor superficial. Dismissing the museum 
as the allegorical representation of the contemporary cultural discourse 
in which "the tyranny of the notions of harmony and good taste"^^ 


were the sole attributes of the arts, and attacking the "worn-out pro- 
totype of the Beautiful and the Great"'^, Futurism embarked on a 
relentless crusade not only to revitalize Italian culture, but also to re- 
evaluate and redefine the concept of the notion of art. 

Irina D. Costache 
Department of Art History 


1 . ' ' We Abjure Our Symbolist Masters, the Last Lovers of the Moon" , Marinetti, 
Selected Wrìtings, R.W. Flint editor, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc., 
1972), p. 66. 

2. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", 1910, in Futurist Manifestos, Umbro 
Apollonio, ed. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1973) English translation. p. 24. 

3. "Founding Manifesto", in Futurismo & Fututrismi, exhibition catalogne, Pontus 
Hulten, editor, (Milan: Bompiani 1986), p. 516. English text. 

4. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", Apollonio, op. cit., p. 24. 

5. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", p. 24. 

6. The rejection of the past has become centrai to the avant-garde and Roland 
Barthes has proposed a definition of the avant-garde in which "death" plays the key 
role. "Being [part] of the avant-garde means understanding death; being arriere-garde 
is to stili love it. '" Quoted by Giovanni Lista, Les Futuriste^, (Paris: Henri Veyrier, 
1988), p. 20. 

7. Ironically, the vehement rejection of the past does not bave a pivotal role posi- 
tion in the visual vocabulary of the futurists. 

8. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", in Apollonio, p. 26. 

9. "Founding Manifesto", in Hulten, p. 516. The relationship betv^'een the 
museum and death has been discussed also by contemporary critics such as Douglas 
Crimp in bis essay, "On the Museum's Ruins" in The Antt-Aesthetics, Essays on Post- 
modem Culture, Hai Foster, editor, (Porr Townsend: Bay Press, 1986), pp. 43-57. 

10. "Founding Manifesto", p. 516. 

11. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", in Apollonio, op. cit., p. 25. 

12. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", p. 25. 

13. "The Exhibitors to the Public", manifesto, 1912 in Theories of Modem Art, 
Herschell B. Chipp, editor, (Los Angeles and Berkeley, University of California Press, 
1972), p. 298. 

14. "Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto" 1910, In Apollonio, op. cit., p. 29. 

15. Mario Morasso, La Vita Moderna nellArte, (Torino: Fratelli Bocca, Editori, 


1904). This hook is a criticai account of the Fifth Venice Biennale in 1903, which was 
organized and structurcd in concordance with // nuovo Kegulamento fot the show 
established in 1902. The significance of Morassso's analysis is that it underlines the 
numerous shoncomings of the exhibition, and, foreshadowing the futurists, heightens 
the perpetuating aesthetic standards. 

16. "Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto" 1910, in Apollonio, op. cit., p. 27. 

17. Papini, "Le Passe n'existe pas", reprinted in Futumme, Mamfestes, Proclam- 
tions, Documents, Giovanni Lista editor, (Lausanne: L'Age d'Homme,1973), p. 92-3. 
My translation. 

18. "The Symbolist Masters ..." in Marinetti, op. cit., p. 66. 

19. Andre Ibels, from the newspaper La Vie de Paris, (n. d.) reprinted in le Premier 
Manifeste du Futurtsme, Jean-Pierre A. De Villiers, editor, (Ottawa: Editions de 
rUniversite d' Ottawa, 1986) p. 161. 

20. "Weights, Measures and Prices of Artistic Genius", manifesto, 1914, in Hulten, 
ed., p. 569. 

21. I am referring in particular bere to Jocavec Derrida The Truth in Patnting, 
(Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 1983), Michel Foucault's "Panop- 
ticism" in The Foucault Reader, Paul Rabinow, editor, (1984), and "What is an 
Audior?" mLanguage, Counter- Memory, Practice, Donald S. Bouchard, editor, (New 
York: Cornell University Press, 1977), Samuel ^chtv Instttutions and Interpretattons, 
(Minneapolis: UMP, 1987), and ???? Viziosi Rethinkmg Art Htstory, Meditations on 
a Coy Science, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989). See also Louga 
Crimp, "The Postmodern Museum" in {Parachute 46, Mar. -May, 1987, 61-67) or 
Parruia Mainardi, "Postmodern History at the Musee d'Orsay" {OctoberA\, Summer 
1987, 109-127). The recent growing interest in an in depth analysis of the museum 
and its role within the cultural discourse is responsible for many new articles and books 
on this subject published in the last two years. 

22. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", Apollonio, p. 25. 

23. Preziosi, (1989) Chapter Three, "The Panoptic Gaze and the Anamorphic 
Archive", p. 75. 

24. Manifesto of the Futurist Painters, p. 26. 

25. "Founding Manifesto", p. 516. 

26. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", p. 24. 

27. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", p. 26. 

28. "Weights, Measures and Prices of Artistic Genius", Hulten, p. 570. 

29. "Against Passeist Venice", manifesto, in Hulten, p. 596. To maximize the 
impact of their inflammatory statements, the entire text is composcd of only four, very 
brief paragraphs. 

30. "Discours Futuriste Aux Venetiens", 1910, Lista (1973), p. 113. My translation 

31. Ibid. 

32. Ibid. 

33. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", p. 26. 

34. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", p. 25. 


35. Chipp, op. cit., chapters on Post-Impressionism and German Expressionism, 
pp. 19, 23 and 272. It is significant to mention that the article published in the New 
York newspaper The Sun commenting on the emergence of Futurism and its break- 
through manifesto, mentions the similarities between Courbet's comments and the 
futurist desire to destroy the museums. See de Villiers, op. cit., p. 171. 

36. "Founding Manifesto", in Hulten, pp. 514-16. 

37. "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters", Apollonio, p. 26. 

38. "The Variety Theater", manifesto, 1913, in Hulten, pp. 588-90. 

Works Cited: 

Apollonio, Umbro, editor, Futurist Manifesto s, London:Thames and Hudson, 1973. 
Chipp, Herschell B., Theones of Modem Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: 

UCP, 1968. 
Foster, Hai, editor. The Anti-Aesthetics, Essays on Postmodern Culture, Porr Town- 

send: Bay Press, 1986 (2nd edition) 
Hulten, Pontus, editor, FuturismoScFuturismi , exhibition catalogue, Milan: Bompiani, 

1986. English text. 
Lista, Giovanni, editor, Futurisme, Manifestes, Proclamations, Documents, Lausanne: 

L'Age d'Homme, 1973. 

, Les Futuristes, Paris: Henri Veyrier, 1988. 

Marinetti, F.T., Selected Wntings, R. W. Flint, editor, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc., 

Morasso, Mario, La Vita Moderna nell' Arte, Torino: Fratelli Bocca, Editori, 1904. 
Preziosi, Donald, Rethinking Art History, Meditation on a Coy Science, New Haven 

and London: Yale University press, 1989. 
de Villiers, Jean-Pierre, Le Premier Manifeste du Futunsme, Ottawa: Editions de 

r Universite d' Ottawa, 1986. 

The Anatomy of a Propaganda Event: 
the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista, 1932 

On the morning of October 28, 1932, the tenth anniversary of the 
Fascist assumption of power, Benito Mussohni inaugurateci the most 
enduring propaganda event of the Fascist dictatorship. As the Duce 
reviewed the assembled honor guards and passed the cheering crowds 
to open the doors of the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista, Fascism 
invited Italians and foreigners alike to experience and participate in the 
regime 's representation of itself. The Mostra della rivoluzione fascista 
recreated, through a melange of art, documentation, relics and his- 
torical simulations, the years 1914 to 1922, as interpreted by Fascism 
in its tenth year in power. The exhibition's twenty-three rooms focused 
on each year from the beginning of World War I until October 1922 
and crescendoed in a Sala del Duce and a Sacrario dei Martiri. 

While the show centered on the past, the actual focus was the future. 
The Mostra s celebration and evocation of Fascism's history and rise to 
power occurred in the early 1930's, the period of the regime's "reaching 
out to the people" and cultural expansion. The years 1929 to 1935 
witnessed Fascism's consent-building programs, such as the draining 
of the Pontine marshes, the construction of the Fascist "new towns", 
the wars on tuberculosis and infant mortality. In this context, the 
Mostra della rivoluzione fascista constituted a mass culture referendum 
on Fascism to date. The exhibition's Partito Nazionale Fascista pro- 
moters worked to capture the allegiance of an Italian mass audience. 
With the show, the regime reached out to the whole of Italian society 



and hoped that at least one of the Mostra s many messages would strike 
a responsive chord in the various attending publics. The not so hidden 
message asked for consent for continued Fascist mie. 

The Mostra offers a case study of the organization of culture during 
Fascism's period of greatest mass support and clues to an understand- 
ing of public responses to that culture. How did the Partito Nazionale 
Fascista produce a propaganda event which both met its own politicai 
need for legitimization and responded to the cultural needs of a broad 
cross-section of the Italian public? The answer must be sought on two 
levels: (1) the aesthetic and ichnographical and (2) the organizational. 
Fascist Party organizers used incentive and experimented with develop- 
ing mass culture techniques in order to attract spectators. The Mostra 
della rivoluzione fascista , soon after its opening, was seen as a popular 
mass-media event and a de ngue ur cuhur2.ì experience. Examination 
of the dual mechanism of "aesthetics" and "mass culture event" 
reveals the way in which Fascism produced a propaganda exhibition 
which received criticai and popular acclaim, while also giving the regime 
the consent it sought. 

Since the fall of Fascism in 1945, historians, art historians and archi- 
tectural historians bave debated the nature of the relationship between 
Fascism and culture. Initial studies placed the cultural artifacts produced 
under Fascism in two camps — as either the work of regime propagan- 
dist, and therefore devoid of intrinsic artistic value, or as works separate 
from politicai and social conditions.^ More recently, art and culture 
under Fascism has come to be seen as shaped by the interaction between 
the regime and artists and the public. ^ As this discussion of the Mostra 
della rivoluzione fascista will show, culture under Fascism took the form 
it did for a number of reasons, ranging from Fascism's search for con- 
sent to the internai aesthetic concerns of artists to the cultural tastes 
of spectators. 

After ten months of preparation, the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista 
opened in Rome at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni on October 28, 1932. 
The director, Dino Alfieri, then President of the Instituto Fascista di 
Cultura in Milan and a Parliamentary deputy, had devised a solicita- 
tion system in order to attain the artifacts which made up the exhi- 
bition. ^ The Fascist Party newspaper, Il Popolo d'Italia, described the 
artifacts sent from ali over Italy as "dei più importante e significa- 


tivi cimeli, fotografie, manifesti, autografi, reliquie, giornali, pub- 
blicazioni..."^ In total, "ministeri, prefetti, segretari federali, musei, 
biblioteche, privati..." contributed 18,400 items to the Mostrai This 
organizational technique involved a vast number of people from vari- 
ous constituencies and gave the impression that the exhibition was the 
product of many and varied hands. If a Senator or a locai Fascist leader 
sent in a clipping or a photo, he had personally contributed to the 
regime's reproduction of itself and was, therefore, centrai to the con- 
struction of Fascism. 

Teams of historians and artists organized the Mostra into twenty-three 
exhibition rooms. As noted, one of the two criticai elements of the 
Mostra' s success lay in the use of an aesthetic which beckoned the viewer 
into the Fascist experience and manipulated emotions to a desired end. 
The vibrant, modem and evocative aesthetic of the show incorporated 
contemporary Italian and international artistic developments. Musso- 
lini had ordered the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista to be "cosa d'oggi, 
modernissima dunque, e audace, senza malinconici ricordi degli stili 
decorativi del passato".^ The show also had to be "senza precedenti, 
nuovissima, modernissima, fascitissima""^ Taking this into considera- 
tion, Alfieri and CE. Oppo, who Alfieri had recruited to oversee the 
artists, courted the Italian art world's most prominent figures. As with 
other artistic institutions under Fascism, explicitly anti-Fascist artists 
were excluded from state and party patronage. However, beyond this 
base qualification, little discrimination took place. In the end, the artists 
singled out were "architetti, pittori, scultori, tutti provenienti da scuole 
artistiche diversi. . . " .^ 

An invitation to work on the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista was an 
invitation to breathe life into the artifacts of Fascism, to take them and 
re-incarnate them into relics, spiritual objects and inspirational touch- 
stones. Artists from a range of schools and histories accepted the 
challenge. Ali the predominant Italian modem movemcnts were repre- 
sented: Futurism by Enrico Trampolini, Gerardo Dottori, Antonio San- 
tagata, Aldo Carpinetti; Novecento by Mario Sironi, Achille Funi, and 
Domenico Rambelli; Rationalism by Giuseppe Terragni, Adalberto 
Libera, and Mario De Renzi; "Return to order" and Strapaese by Mino 
Maccari and Leo Longanesi. The list of contributors read like a roll cali 
of leading inter-war Italian artists. 


While the artists carne from diverse backgrounds and movements, 
a common approach to the material linked them to one another. Much 
of the aesthetic construction of the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista 
centered on the utilization of repeated, simple architectonic forms, such 
as triangles and circles, of photomontage, extracted slogans, typography 
and enlarged photographs.^ The artists shared a common faith in the 
malleability of the artifacts and the possibility of using modernist artistic 
construction such as collage and photomontage to make them speak 
a number of messages. One reviewer believed that photomontage "im- 
prime all'intera rassegna il suo più squisito e inconfondibile carattere 
occulare".i° The exhibition felt the imprint of two primary aesthetic 
philosophies: the Futurist practice oi plastica murale and the Soviet 
Constructivist inspired notion of creating self-enclosed environments. 
The Futurist contribution entailed a dependence upon projected three- 
dimensional constructions which gave the walls a plasticity and move- 
ment. The artists of the Mostra borrowed photomontage and the idea 
of reshaping pre-existing architecture from the avant-gardes of the 
Soviet Union, such as El Lissitsky. These common threads gave the exhi- 
bition its underpinning of aesthetic vibrancy. A shared relationship to 
the artifacts allowed varied aesthetic languages to blend and produce 
a coherent whole. 

Alfieri allotted the liturgically centrai aspects of the Mostra della 
rivoluzione fascista to the most experimental and modem artists. Four 
elements emerged as the most lasting from the exhibition: the facade, 
the Sala del 1922, Sala della Marcia su Roma and the Sacrario dei mar- 
tiri. These four, with their complicated texts, articulated the most emo- 
tional aspects of the show. The facade, as the beckoning image, drew 
spectators in with its imposing specter of power and modernity. The 
Room of 1922 manipulated frenzied images of the social, politicai and 
economie crisis leading to the March on Rome, rousing passions of anger 
and allegiance. The rooms cclebrating the Fascist takeover offered a 
moment of resolution and epiphany. Finally, the show's core cycle was 
completed by the silent and intense of the Chapel of the Fallen. 

The rooms of the exhibition played out the cycle of crisis, redemp- 
tion, resolution: the first fourteen rooms traced Italian intervention in 
World War I, the postwar crisis, the rise of Fascism and the Fascist vie- 
tory. With the Fascist takeover, depicted in Sala Q, the chronological 


approach ended and the show concluded with the Salone d'onore, the 
Galleria dei Fasci, and the Sacrario dei marriri.''^ As the Fascist coup 
symbolized the end of history and a resolution of ali national conflicts, 
the roonns which followed its depiction dealt with timeless subjects. 

Rationalist architects Adalberto Libera and Mario De Renzi com- 
pletely covered the pre-existing nineteenth-century beaux arts face of 
the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and replaced the heavily ornamented 
facade of 1882 with a Rationalist metal one. Over a thirty-eight meter 
long "pompeian" red metal archway, stood the words, MOSTRA 
DELLA RIVOLUZIONE FASCISTA in red letters. Over this arch rose 
four metal s\.y\tà. fasci . These imposingy^ja, which were visible for a 
great distance, stood twenty-five meters and were made of "lamiera 
di rame brunito e ossidato, su armature di accaio".'^ On either side 
of the building stood two, six meter tali X's "costruiti in lamiera." The 
rectangular archway entered upon an atrium surrounded by arches 
which carried the visitor into the exhibition. 

The facade, like the show itself, presented a mix of concurrent mes- 
sages. The long rectangular arch over a bank of doors beckoned to be 
entered. At the same time, the immense fasci towering over the 
crowded Roman shopping Street humbled and minimized the indi- 
viduality of the attender. The stark metal simplicity of the facade in 
contrast to everything surrounding it made a bold statement about the 
regime's power. The bare machine-like ^^j^:/ advertised the regime's 
decision to represent itself as modem, while the reconstruction of a 
triumphal arch out of the four column-like^j^cz testified to Fascism's 
identiflcation with the past.'^ The primary two iconographical elements 
of the facade, they^ja and the Roman numerai X, harkened back to 
Imperiai Rome. At the same time, the stark, stylized fasci evoked im- 
ages of modem war, of bayonets and swords. ^^ There was no confusion 
as to the symbolic universe offered by the facade: the eye first caught 
the metal y^j-^:/ proclaiming the power of the State, then the X which 
announced the State 's temperai reign, and finally the title of the event. 

While the facade came to be one of the most reproduced images of 
the show, the Sala del 1922 by Giuseppe Terragni and the Sala della 
Marcia su Roma by Mario Sironi offer, perhaps, the best clues to 
the contribution of aesthetics to the success of the exhibition. Cut 
diagonally by a wall and surrounded by semi-circles of display cases. 


the Sala del 1922 was a frenetic mass of inter-connecting photomon- 
tages, collages, cut-outs, ali moving at diagonal angles. The room pro- 
jected a "fantasia terramotatta, che scardina ogni angolo, ogni porzione 
delle superfici aggredite dall'inconsueto allestimento, destruturando 
lo spazio espositivo ".'5 The themes of the room ranged from the con- 
tinued martyrdoms of Fascist squad members, to accelerating parlia- 
mentary crises, to the birth of the first Fascist para-state organizations. 
Below the canvass-draped ceiling, hung an enormous X, for year 10: 

Questo plastico è completemente coperto di bandiere socialiste ed anar- 
chiche messe in penombre e le bandiere stesse, volendosi dimostrare che 
nell'anno 1922 ha termine la vera efficienza dei partiti sovversivi, sono 
inchiodate sull'armature da pugnali illuminati da riflettori.''^ 

One side of the diagonal wall narrated Fascist punitive actions of 1922, 
with clippings and artifacts. Above the display, hung a series of merging 
profiles in which Mussolini 's black profile fused with the silver outline 
of Italy, ali framed by the words "Inquadramento delle forze giova- 
nili". This collage symbolized the emergence of the institutions of the 
nascent Fascist state out of the disarray and created the ichnographical 
conflation oi Italy -Mussolini-Vascism. Another segment of the wall 
bore Mussolini's slogan, "The Last May Ist!", supported by a cutout 
figure pushing away the crutch of socialism. In the adjacent corner stood 
a ceiling-high figure composed of a prison-suit of metal strips, entitled, 
"Il lavoratore irretito dalla scioperomania". The "Room of 1922" 
reached a climax with a panel called ' 'Adunate' ' . The lower section bore 
airplane propellers constructed from photographs of mass rallies. These 
propellers faced diagonally up towards hundreds of plaster hands, ali 
pointing to the sky in a disembodied Roman salute. 

Sironi's Sala della Marcia su Roma used an imposing monumentality 
to calm the spectator after the frenetic crises depicted in the earlier 
rooms. The Room of the March on Rome centered immense, over- 
powering, but minimal images. The austerity oiSala Q, after the earlier 
rooms, offered a respite, an opportunity for the viewer to feel the restive 
powers of Fascism. Sironi merged the symbols of Fascism with those 
of the Italian nation-state. The ceiling was tricolor, as was the color 
scheme of the entire room. The wall facing the en trance displayed three 
images: (1) white letters with red borders, declaring LA MARCIA su 


ROMA, below (2) a bassrelief of a stylizcd eagle in flight which (3) sup- 
ported a relief of the national flag adorned with the cross of the House 
of Savoy. Together the shapes of the flag and the eagle produced the 
silhouette oi a. fascio. This three-dimensional trilogy of Fascism-imperial 
eagle-Italian flag projected the unity of the old and the new and offered 
a message of stability and consolidation. The head of the eagle projected 
off the Wall and into the exhibition "come presaghe del prossimo im- 
pennarsi del destino".^"' Bare except for two images, the opposing wall 
was Sironi's most powerful. A three-dimensional, wall length Roman 
sword engraved with the intersecting words DUX/ ITALIA shattered the 
red chain of Socialism which hung in pieces from the wall.*^ The Roman 
sword, the symbol of Italy united to its Duce in a resurrection of 
Roman glory, smashed the strangle-hold of Socialism. Il Popolo d'Italia 
hailed the "bloody chain" which had to be cut as a "prelude to the 
flight of the eagle". 19 

The Room of the March led into Sironi's "grave and silent" Salon 
of Honor.2o With the Salon of Honor and the Gallery of Fasci which 
followed it, Sironi produced self-sustaining psychological environments. 
The Salon of Honor was based around an exedra dominated by a statue 
of Mussolini bursting out of a wall. Below the statue stood the enor- 
mous abstracted letters DUX. The statue/DUX combination over- 
looked the "den", the "severe celi of the first seat oi 11 Popolo d'Italia, 
the real focus of the room.^i Inside a simple, square building. Musso- 
lini 's office from 1914 until 1920 was re-created and canonized for the 
Viewer. The only ornamentation of construction were plain pillars 
clothed in reproductions of // Popolo d'Italia and a simple doorway 
through which the relics were observed. The re-constituted office 
offered a slice of Fascism in its radicai movement phase: Mussolini's 
paper-covered desk strewn with hands-grenades and a carelessly placed 
revolver; behind the desk hung a black flag with skull and cross-bones. 
The disordered room, claimed the catalog, was "a living documenta- 
tion of the den from which came the orders of the insurrection"." The 
bare architecture of Salon of Honor, with its focus on (1) the image and 
word of Mussolini as authoritarian consolidator and (2) environmen- 
tal recreation of Mussolini as radicai revolutionary leader, gave the cult 
of Mussolini a symbology. 

The Mostra della rivoluzione fascista implied a number of contradic- 


tory messages about the future of Fascism; it offered simultaneous 
images of revolution and consolidation and it celebrated Fascism in its 
movement phase while also elevating the cult of Mussolini. However, 
above ali, the exhibition worked to convince the viewer that Fascism 
had been the saviour of the nation. The interpretation of the events 
of 1914 to 1922 portrayed an Italy besieged on ali sides by internai 
and external enemies bent on national disintegration. The rooms cover- 
ing the years 1914 to 1922 depicted images of "wolf-like parliamen- 
tarians", backstabbing Allies, insidious Soviets and evil socialists. The 
exhibition, with its repeated fusion of the symbols of the Liberal, pre- 
Fascist state with those of Fascism, declared that Fascism and the Italian 
state were now one. Fascism enthroned a new national symbolic uni- 
verse and conflated the national cult with the Fascist cult. 

With the exhibition, the regime produced the first event of a shared 
national culture. For the first time in modem Italian history there 
existed a cultural experience which resonated — albeit in different ways 
— with a significant cross-section of the Italian population from a range 
of regions and classes.^s While Fascism 's primary goal in promoting such 
an event was support for the Fascist project, in the process it attained 
the secondary goal of contributing to the creation of an Italian national 

The Mostra della rivoluzione fascista borrowed from both the secular 
rituals of the French Revolution and the religious ones of Christianity. 
The rhythm of the show — crisis, understanding, redemption — paral- 
leled the Christian liturgy, while the secular religion of the state and 
the canonization of its symbols built on the legacy of the French Revo- 
lution. The celebration of the "glorious dead" combined a Christian 
reverence for martyrdom with the nationalist celebration of allegiance 
to ùìt patria. ^'^ The exhibition was repeatedly described in language 
such as, "un atto di fede e omaggio agli Caduti... rivendicazione di fiere 
opere compiute ed una esaltazione solenne anche dei più ignoranti 
sacrifici... ".25 The religious imagery spilled into such assertions as, 
"ogni visita diventa un pellegrinaggio". ^^ 

The powerful aesthetics of the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista were 
supported by an orchestrated reaching out to the masses. In order for 
the exhibition to be a tool of consent and legitimation, the regime had 
to expose large audiences to it. The dictatorship courted audiences 


through an incentive policy which included travel discounts, organized 
group excursions, and rotating honor guards. Throughout its two years 
on the Via Nazionale, the Mostra offered 70% train fare discounts to 
any visitor who had his or her train ticket vaHdated at the exhibition 
ticket office. Organized group trips included school children, members 
of Fascist organizations, municipal works, ex-soldiers, teachers' unions, 
nuns.^'' American Naval Cadets, farmers from Treviso, and teachers 
from France ali took advantage of the discount opportunities.^» The 
exhibition also brought together Fascist officials and members of Fascist 
organizations through the system of rotating honor guards. Each day 
that the show was open to the public, a file of daily rotating and paid 
honor guards flanked the doors. This gave many party members the 
opportunity to visibly participate in the Mostra. 

Popular response to the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista exceeded 
the Fascist National Party's greatest anticipations. Attendance steadily 
increased and remained so intense through the exhibition's planned 
six month existence that the closing date was initially extended from 
Aprii 21, 1933 tojuly 31, 1933 and, finally, to October 28, 1934.29 
Interest in the Mostra proved so great and pervasive that within two 
months of the inauguration one reviewer claimed: 

Non v'è oramai cittadino, in tutta la Penisola, il quale non sappia che 
essa è una pagina di storia, che balza calda e fremente da una docu- 
mentazione inconfutabile e definitiva, perchè d'ogni fatto possiamo 
essere testimonianze. 5° 

Attendance figures supported assertions of widespread interest: in the 
first seven months (October 29, 1932-May 23, 1933) 1,236,151 visitors 
attended the exhibition and by the closing date of October 28, 1934, 
three million spectators had passed through the metal fasci of the 
entrance to the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista.^'' 

The Mostra della rivoluzione fascista revealed Fascism's ability, in the 
middle years of its tuie, to respond to Italian cultural needs. Through 
an effective combination of experimental aesthetics and mass cultural 
organizational techniques, the Fascist regime offered cultural consumers 
an event which resonated with their own identities as Italians and 
spectators. The exhibition swept up the visitor in the representation 
of his or her own history and allowed artists to participate in the con- 


stmction of that history. In return, artists and spectators gave their 
continued consent to Fascist rule. 

Maria Stone 
Princeton University 


1 . Umberto Silva' s Ideologia e arte del fascismo is an example of the first approach. 
Umberto Silva, Ideologia e arte del fascismo (Milan: Mazzetta, 1973). 

2. In recent years, a number of works have attempted to determine the social and 
cultural bases of Fascist policies. Victoria de Grazia's The Culture of Consent which 
deals with Fascist leisure-time organizations is the model fot this approach. Victoria 
de Grazia, The Culture o/Co»j(?«/ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1979). 
See also. Laura Malvano, Fascisimo e politica dell'immagine (Bollati Boringhieri: Turin, 

3. Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Mostra delle rivoluzione fascista. Buste 1-275. 
The Archivio Centrale dello Stato in Rome has a document collection entitled. Mostra 
della rivoluzione fascista, of the tagged and collated items from the show. Bach clip- 
ping, artifact or photograph has a tag which details from whom it was sent and whether 
or not it was used in the Mostra. 

4. "Per l'organizzazione della Mostra del fascismo", Il Popolo d'Italia, ]znua.iy 
5, 1932. 

5. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica 
(Rome: Partito Nazionale Fascista, 1933), p. 53. The exhibition published rwo guide- 
books, both by Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi. The one cited here was longer and 
included numerous reproductions. The earlier one was more strictly a guidebook: Dino 
Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Guida della Mostra della rivoluzione fascista (Firenze: Sta- 
bilimenti Grafici A. Vallecchi, 1932). 

6. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 

7. Mussolini's directive as reported in Gigi Maino, "La mostra delle rivoluzione 
fascista". La Rassegna Italiana, voi. 16, n. 178, p. 206. 

8. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 

9. Giorgio Ciucci, "L'autorappresentazione del fascismo", i^^jjé'^wtf, n. 10,june 
1982, p. 49. 

10. Alberto Neppi, "L'Opera degli artisti alla Mostra della rivoluzione fascista," 
Rassegna istruzione artistica, November-December 1932, p. 338. 

11. 'Wxt fascio was the symbol appropriated from ancient Rome by Fascism. The 


fasci were doublé edged swords bound with rods and carried by the magistrates of 
ancient Rome. They were the symbol of justice and unity of the state. Fascism also used 
the term to refer to its fighting squads, ùit fasci di combattimento . 

12. Margarita Sarfatti, "Architettura, arte e simbolo alla Mostra del Fascismo", 
Architettura, ]znu'3ivy 1933, p- 3. 

13. Giorgio Ciucci described the facade as a triumphal arch, with its four fasci act- 
ing as columns. Giorgio Ciucci, in a presentation to "Istituto Gramsci di Bologna", 
Aprii 9, 1987. 

14. Giorgio Ciucci, "L'autorappresentazione del fascismo", Rassegna, p. 49. 

15. Ada Francesca Marciano, Giuseppe Terragni: Opera completa, 1923-43 (Rome: 
Officina Edizioni, 1987) p. 74. 

16. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 

p. 191. 

17. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 

p. 195. 

18. Dux is Latin for Duce, or leader. 

19. "La Mostra della Rivoluzione" , la Rivista Illustrata del Popolo d'Italia, Year 
XI, November 1932, p. 51. 

20. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 
p. 211. 

21. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 
p. 215. 

22. Dino Alfieri and Luigi Freddi, Mostra della rivoluzione fascista: Guida Storica, 

p. 215. 

23. For more on the late development of national cultures and the attempt to bnng 
the masses into the project see: George Mosse, The Nationalization ofthe Masses (New 
York, 1975) and E. J. Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds.. The Invention ofTradi- 
tion (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1983). 

24. George Mosse, The Nattonaltzation ofthe Masses (New York, 1975) p. 90. 

25. Cornelio di Marzio, "La Mostra del Fascismo", Bibliografia Fascista, n. 4, 
May 1932, pp. 259 and 264. 

26. Mino Maccari, "Il carattere popolare della Mostra della rivoluzione fascista". 
Illustrazione Italiana, Aprii 2, 1933. 

27. ACS, PNF Direttorio — Ufficio Stralcio, Busta 271, fascicolo 2. 

28. ACS, PNF Direttorio— Ufficio Stralcio, Busta 271, fascicolo 2. 

29. "La mostra della nvoluzione (da Via Nazionale a Via dell'Impero)", Illustra- 
zione Italiana, 28 ottobre 1934, p. 668 and ACS ?). 

30. F. F. Mule, "La Mostra della rivoluzione fascista", Capitolium , ji.nu2.ry 1933, 
p. 1. 

31. ACS, PNF Direttorio— Ufficio Stralcio, Busta 271, fascicolo 3, "Verbale, 7 
noviembre 1934. 

Pasolini 's Cinema of Regression 

Pier Paolo Pasolini's most famous piece of film theory is "The Cinema 
of Poetry" (1965), in which he revives (consciously?) a distinction made 
almost forty years earlier by Viktor Shklovsky between a prosaic cinema 
and a poetic one. According to Shklovsky, "[in] its plot construction, 
its semantic composition, a prose work is based primarily on a combina- 
tion of everyday situations," while "in a poetic film the technical- 
formal features predominate over the semantic features."^ Similarly, 
Pasolini defines the cinema of prose as the cinema of classical narrative, 
which is based on a repression of the cinema's poetic qualities. With 
the establishment of the conventions of the cinematic prose narrative, 
the cinema's "irrational, oneiric, elementary, and barbarie elements 
were forced below the level of consciousness."^ 

Pasolini identifies cinema with dreams and memory because both 
are based on the signification of images. This identification places the 
poetic cinema closer to the primary process than the cinema of prose. 
Plot becomes a form of secondary revision, turning cinema into a 
"gente of escapist performance, with a number of consumers 
unimaginable for ali other forms of expression."^ Thus the cinema of 
the prose narrative is a deformation of the true cinema, the cinema of 
poetry, a deformation caused by the consumerism that Pasolini saw ali 
around him and which he hated for its ability to degrade everything 
it touched. However, just as psychic repression never destroys the 
repressed content, so too "the fundamentally irrational nature of 
cinema cannot be eliminated."^ Pasolini finds moments of poetry even 



in prose narrative films. In his own films, he sought to restore the 
primary nature of cinema. His is a cinema of regression. 

Freud distinguishes three kinds of regression in The Interpretation 
of Dream s: 

(a) topograp hical ttgKssion, [i.e., from consciousness toward the un- 
conscious] ... ; (b) t e mp orai ttgrtssìon, in so far as what is in question 
is a harking back to older psychical structures; and (e) yórz^^/ regression, 
where primitive methods of expression and representation take the place 
of the usuai ones.' 

Ali three types of regression find expression in Pasolini's films. His at- 
tempt to move from the cinema of prose, of rationality, toward a poetic 
cinema related to the primary processes is a form of topographical 
regression. The nostalgia of many of the films parallels their pregenital 
eroticism; both are forms of temporal regression, one in the broad sense 
of the word, the other in the more properly Freudian sense of a return 
to an earlier stage of libidinal development. Most importantly, formai 
regression takes the shape of Pasolini's search for a more poetic narrative 
structure. Despite labeling narrative as typical of prose cinema, he never 
rejects narrative itself. Instead he rejects the dominant mode of nar- 
rative (as in the classic Hollywood film) based on the Aristotelian dieta 
of a unified plot tracing one action completed by a protagonist, in 
which the action proceeds according to laws of probability and necessity 
and the characters maintain a psychological consistency. 

If, as Peter Wollen has suggested, film makers write theory primarily 
to explain their most recent work, the most logicai film to begin with 
would be // Vangelo Secondo Matteo {The Gospel According to 
Matthew), which came out in 1964, the year before Pasolini wrote "The 
Cinema of Poetry." But in fact, elements of a poetic regression can be 
found in his previous two fictional features, Accatone (1961) and 
Mamma Roma (1962). Accatone contains a dream sequence in which 
the title character attends his own funeral, a sequence which Pasolini 
called "epic-mythic-fantastic," adding that "these aren't typical 
characteristics of the petit bourgeoisie."*^ By locating the cinema of 
poetry in opposition to bourgeois cinema, Pasolini links his aesthetics 
to his politics. Because the bourgeoisie is a totalizing force of corrup- 
tion and hypocrisy, it cannot be defeated but can be eluded through 


regression to the pre-bourgeois, which Pasolini identified as the pea- 
sant, the archaic, the unconscious. Besides the dream sequence, the 
episodio nature of the narrative also gives Accatone its epic-mythic- 
fantastic quaUty. Like the epic, Accatone has an episodic plot tracing 
the history of an individuai, without the teleology and unity of the 
classic film narrative. The same can he said oi Mamma Roma. In this 
case, the narrative 's episodic nature is underscored by a repeated shot 
of the desolate view from Mamma Roma's coveted high-rise apartment. 
This shot returns like a refrain several times in the course of the fdm, 
and becomes the fìlm's final shot. This use of a refrain is a link between 
the cinema and orai culture, itself a regression towards the past away 
from the present of mass media communication. 

Similarly, Gospel picscTvcs the episodic structure of the originai in- 
stead of presenting the event as a seamless plot in the manner of the 
Hollywood Bible picture. Pasolini makes no attempt to stitch the 
episodes together to provide a continuity; rather, the episodic struc- 
ture serves to emphasize the contradictory nature of the gospel. Christ 
is by turns severe and gentle, imperious and humble. This emphasis 
on contradiction constitutes an example of formai regression, a move 
toward the primary process. The kind of narrative continuity that 
Pasolini discards can be seen as similar to Freud 's secondary revision, 
which "fiUs up the gaps in the dream-structure" so that "the dream 
loses its appearance of . . . disconnectedness and approximates to the 
model of an intelligible experience.'"' Christian Metz specifies that 
cinema's similarity to dreaming is limited to a film being ' 'a dream in 
which secondary revision does nearly everything by itself, a dream where 
the primary process plays only a furtive and intermittent role, a role 
of gap-maker, a role oi escape ^^ 

Pasolini introduces new regressive strategies in Gospel intended to 
mcrease the role of the primary and make the film more poetic and thus 
anti-bourgeois. One is the choice to film a work written two thousand 
years earlier. Freud himself linked psychic regression to the return to 
a historical past: "the primitive stages can always be re-establishcd; the 
primitive mind is, in the fullest meaning of the word, imperishable."^ 
Another strategy introduced in Gospelis the depiction of story telling. 
One might expect the parables to be absent from the film as undramatic 
events, but Pasolini leaves them in as another ingredient in the fìlm's 


regressive nature. Storytelling is usually associateci with the parallel 
prehistories of childhood and antiquity. Walter Benjamin lamented 
that storytelling began to die in the modem age because "experience 
has fallen in value."'° Benjamin, like Pasolini, identifies economie 
forces as the suppressers of experience (or "reality" in Pasolinian terms); 
both see storytelling as a direct transmission of experience /reality from 
teller to listener. 

Por Benjamin, the rise of the Communications media and of infor- 
mation doomed storytelling. Information, based on plausibility and 
verifiability, devalues the magical and the miraculous in favor of ex- 
planation. With storytelling, "marvelous things are related with the 
greatest accuracy, but the psychological connection of the events is not 
forced on the reader."^' Thus storytelling, like poetry, is positioned 
as closer to the primary than modem forms of narrative. 

After Gospel, Pasolini was to set almost ali of the test of his films 
in the past, varying the degrees of remoteness from antiquity to the days 
of the Salo government. Teorema (1968), lacking this nostalgie regres- 
sion to the past, instead introduces a new form of temporal regression 
that will become increasingly importanti depictions of regression to pre- 
genital forms of sexuality. The narrative structure is once again episodic, 
but there is no protagonist whose life the cpisodes trace. Instead there 
is a centrai figure, a visitor who acts as a mathcmatical function; each 
character who comes in contact with him has a different valuc after the 
interaction. The structure resembles a table of three columns of figures: 
the characters before meeting the visitor, during the visitor's stay, after 
the visitor leaves. 

This narrative structure derives not from the older patterns of myth 
and epic but from Pasolini's attempt to separate reality and nature. 
Since the reality expressed in Teorema is mostly that of a Milanese 
bourgeois family and not the archaic reality of the subproletariat or the 
peasant, Pasolini uses a mechanistic structure to break down the 
bourgeois reality, to attack it. The narrative events are arranged 
schematically; the members of the family are introduced one by one, 
they fall in love with the visitor one by one, and they react to his 
absence one by one. 

Because of the frequent closeups on the visitor's crotch and his 
universal appeal, he seems to be an embodiment of phallic sexuality, 


itself pre-genital because it downplays any notion of sexual difference 
or reproductive sexuality. His arrivai can be seen as a return of the 
repressed that starts the family on a regression which is perhaps best 
described as a Lacanian one. That is, they ali seem to regress to a pre- 
symbolic state. Once their contact with the phallic force of the visitor 
has returned them to a pregenital stage of libidinal organization, they 
lose their place in the social structure. The mother embarks on a course 
of compulsive promiscuity. The son becomes an artist, but one 
dedicated to removing content and intentionality from his work by 
painting random lines on glass. The daughter becomes catatonie. The 
father donates his factory to the workers, strips in the train station at 
the sight of a desirablc young man, and runs screaming into the 
wilderness. AH seem to bave lost the ability to speak by the end, ex- 
cept the maid. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith explains the difference: 

the [bourgeois] characters can only live in bourgcois society, with the 
family in the heart of it. When that goes, they cannot live in any society 
at ali. But the maid's universe survives, which is that of her peasant 
origins, a (supposedly) non-bourgeois order, and to this she can return. 
In other words, shc regresses.'^ 

The theorem demonstrated by Teorema seems to be that regression — 
libidinal, formai, or temporal — is not just an escape to the mythic, 
poetic reality suppressed by the bourgeoisie; it is also a weapon to be 
used against the bourgeoisie. 

Pasolini 's films based directly on myth, Edipo Re (1967) and Medea 
(1970), continue the notion of a more archaic reality that survives. The 
fact that both the Oedipus and Medea stories exist as myth and as 
tragedy gives these two fdms aspects of the fantastic, the epic, and the 
ritual. His version of Oedipus starts during the Fascist period of 
Pasolini's own youth, than shifts to antiquity, only to end in contem- 
porary Bologna. Here temporal regression is used to point up the primal 
underpinnings of modernity that must be embraced and not repressed. 
The return to the world of antiquity and myth in Medea also signals 
a return to story telling. The very first scene in the film finds the cen- 
taur Chiron telling the young Jason the story of his family. While 
Medea's country, Colchis, is the site of the primal in the film, the land 
of ritual (the section of the film set there is virtually without dialog), 


Jason's birthright is Corinth, where "evcrything is secular, modem, 
refined, cultured."*^ Brought up in cxile from Corinth, Jason is 
suspcnded bctween the primal and the modem. Hence Chiron appears 
to him in two forms: as centaur and as human. As the human Chiron 
explains, the centaur is an avatar of an earher, sacred reality that Jason 
knew as a child which has been replaced by the desecrated, human ver- 
sion. The centaur remains, mute, as the inspiration for the feelings that 
the human expresses. This is an almost exact parallel to the relation that 
Freud describes between the primary and secondary processesi 

the primary processes are present in the mental apparatus from the first, 
while it is only during the course of life that the secondary processes un- 
fold, and come to inhibit and overlay the primary ones.''* 

Jason falls in love with Medea because she is stili in touch with the 
sacred reality that he is moving away from. His decision to marry 
Glauce, the princess of Corinth, marks his rejection of the primitive 
for the material wealth of the modem. Because of this rejection, Medea 
regresses to a primal state in which she regains the magic powers she 
had in Colchis and exacts revenge on Jason by killing Glauce and her 
own sons. As in Teorema, regression becomes a weapon against the 
repressive force of the modem, although in this case it also destroys the 
person who wields it. 

While Medea begins with the telling of a story, Pasolini's next three 
films, known collectively as the Trilogy ofLife, use the act of storytelling 
as a recurrent motif . Ali three films are adaptations of famous coUec- 
tions of tales: The Decameron (1970), The Canterbury Tales (1971), 
and The Arabian Night s (1974). They represent also the culmination 
of Pasolini's regressive strategy and his most optimistic fllms. This op- 
timism stems mostly from the suspension of narrative closure, which 
Pasolini associates with death: "death effects a rapid synthesis of a past 
life . . . this is the way in which a life becomes a story. "^^ The act of 
telling a story, conversely, can enhance life. Cramming several tales into 
each film of the trilogy suspends any closure, since "the transitions bet- 
ween episodes are so abrupt and unexpected that we often find 
ourselves well into the next tale before we realize that the previous one 
is over. "'6 Blurring the tales' beginnings and endings emphasizes their 
middles. Such an emphasis allows Pasolini to foreground "the desire 


and excess that characterize the middle phase of narrative," as Laura 
Mulvey puts it.^"' Mulvey goes on to point out that this phase is also 
"marked by . . . extraordinary events in which the rules and expecta- 
tions of ordinary existence are left in suspense. "'^ 

This focus on the middle narrative phase opens a space in which 
regression becomes a pleasurable escape from inhibitions instead of a 
destructive force. The clothed crotch shots in Teorema are replaced by 
abundant nudity, with an emphasis on the penis second only to the 
phallic display of gay porn. The Canterbury Tales also contains a 
remarkablc amount of pregenital imagery, especially of the anal variety, 
from the homosexual sodomy that opens the second tale to the demon 
in Hell at the end who shits clerics. Nowell-Smith points out that 
Arabian Nights seeks to erase sexual difference by blurring the distinc- 
tions between male and female beauty. ^^ 

Besides this libidinal regression, the films of the Trilogy also display 
the types of formai regression found in earlier Pasolini films. The 
epigraph oi Arabian Nights — "The complete truth does not lie in one 
dream but in several" — refers not only to the complex narrative struc- 
ture but also to the dreamlike quality of the film, in the form of the 
elaborate coincidences which advance the narrative and the unusual 
number of special effects. Humor also allows the primary process to 
emerge at least partly. As the first intelligible line of dialog in Canter- 
bury Tales puts it, "Between a jest and a joke, many a truth can be 
told." The humor of the Trilogy can best be described as carnivales- 
que. Mulvey summarizes Mikhail Bakhtin's definition of carnival as that 
which "gloried in the peasant side of the cultural connotations 
associated with the peasant /noble opposition, the lower part of the 
body, its functions. . . . Carnival inverted the normal experience of daily 
life, celebrating pleasure and excess in food, drink, and sex. "2° The em- 
phasis on the face in the earlier films is thus displaced to the emphasis 
on the phallus, which gets nearly as many closeups in the Trilogy as 
the face does. Carnivalesque humor thus functiorts as another regressive 
strategy, liberating the repressed. 

Pasolini 's last film. Salo (1975), probably contams more nudity than 
the entire Trilogy, but the difference is striking. While the Trilogy exalts 
the body. Salo mortifies it. Pasolini explained this reversai as a rejec- 
tion of the Trilogy because the sexual revolution, in whose spirit it was 


madc, had turned out to bc just another tool used by consumerist 
capitalism to expand its hegemony. Pasolini filmed the Trilogy mostly 
in what he considered to be the non-bourgeois milieus of Naples, nor- 
thern Africa, and the Middle East because "the last bulwark of reality 
seemed to be Xinnocent' bodies with the archaic, dark, vital violence 
of their sexual organs."^' After finishing the Trilogy, he decided that 
"even the reality of 'innocent' bodies has been violated, manipulated, 
enslaved by consumerist power. "22 Pasolini is thus forced to confront 
the present, which means "adapting to degradation and accepting the 

Salo is the dramatization of this confrontation. In the course of the 
film, Pasolini rejects everything — not just his old enemies, the 
bourgeoisie and the Aristotelian plot, but also ali the things he had 
previously believed in: the body, sex, humor, storytelling, regression. 
Pasolini abandons the episodic, organic structure of the Trilogy for a 
schema as rigid as Teorema s. After the opening, the film is divided 
into three sections, or "Circles" as they are called in reference to 
Dante 's Inferno, each one focussing on a different perversion. While 
the sinners in The Decameron escape punishment, and the Hell in The 
Canterbury Tales was reserved mostly for clerics, this man-made Hell 
punishes the body without regard for innocence or guilt. Sex, the ex- 
periencing of one body by another, bere becomes a weapon of domina- 
tion. Physical beauty, the sign of innocence in Arabian Nights, bere 
becomes a symptom of vulnerability and submission. The libertines 
select the most beautiful pair of buttocks and submit its owner to tor- 
ture. Storytelling, which had been the occasion for the celebration of 
life and escape from oppression, bere becomes merely a blueprint for 

The film moves systematically from the extremely rigid and static ac- 
tion and visual style of the opening to the irrational eruption of the 
end; in other words, it regresses from being highly "secondarized" to 
being highly "primary." But while regression in the Trilogy brings one 
closer to reality, the libertines' regression takes them further away from 
it, as it did for the bourgeois family in Teorema. They reject reality for 
a corrupt, repressive regression. The carnivalesque humor of the Trilogy 
is replaced by the nihilistic absurdity of the jokes told by the President. 
The blurring of sexual difference in Arabian Nights is first rejected by 


the gender segregation enforced by the libertines, then mocked by their 
childish behavior in drag. While the sexual behavior is almost entirely 
at a pregenital stage, the emphasis is on the sadistic forms of anal and 
orai sexuality. 

In ali of Pasolini's earlier films, regression became a move away from 
the conscious towards memory and the unconscious. The libertine 
regression of Salo merely inverts conscious rationality, producing a 
repressive desublimation of terror, nihilism, pain, and the irrational. 
By the final orgy of destruction, the libertines bave retreated from 
reality so far that they take turns watching the torture from an upper 
window through binoculars to distance themselves from the scene even 
more thoroughly. Meanwhile, two of the young guards clutch each 
other awkwardly and dance slowly in a circle. 

This, the last image from Pasolini's last film, has occasioned more 
disagreement than any other single shot in bis work. The critics who 
see the film as a rejection of homosexuality and who regard Pasolini's 
murder as the logicai conclusion to bis sexual habits tend to read this 
image as the lowest point of beli, with the young men indifferent to 
the suffering around them. I would argue that the shot instead marks 
the revival of Pasolini's interest in regression as the only possible escape 
from the symbolic structures of the bourgeoisie's pervasive fascism. In- 
stead of a regression to the past, the subproletariat, the Third World, 
pregenital sexuality, humor, memory, dream, epic, myth, storytelling 
or any other past strategy, the guards represent the most radicai regres- 
sion of ali — back to the imaginary dyad. Having lost faith in ali 
politicai, social, or sexual solutions, Pasolini retreats as far as possible — 
back to the moment of the establishment of the ego — but he does not 

David Pendleton 


1. Viktor Shklovsky, "Poetry and Prose in Cinematography" (1927) in Stephen 
Bann and John E. Bowlt, eds., Russian Formalism: A Collection of Artide s and Te xts 
in Translation (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1973), pp. 129, 130. 


2. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Herettcal Empincism (1972), trans. Ben Lawton and Louise 
K. Barnett (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), p. 172. 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), trans. James Strachey 
(New York: Avon Books, 1965), p. 587. 

6. Oswald Stack, Pasolini on Paso/ini {London: Thames and Hudson Limited, 1969), 
p. 46. 

7. Freud, p. 528. 

8. Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema {\'^11), 
trans. Celia Britton, Annwyl Williams, Ben Brewster, and Alfred Guzzetti (Bloom- 
ington: Indiana University Press, 1982), p. 123. 

9. Jean Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis {\910), trans. 
Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1973), p. 387. 

10. Walter Benjamin, llluminations , trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken 
Books, 1969), pp. 83-84. 

11. Ibid., p. 89. 

12. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, "Pasolini's Originality" in Paul Willemen, ed. Pier 
Paolo Pasolini (London: British Film Institute, 1977), p. 16. 

13. Pasolini, "Pasolini on Film" in Willemen, p. 67. 

14. Freud, p. 642. 

15. Pasolini, Heretical Empiricism, p. 251. 

16. Millicent Marcus, "The Decameron: Pasolini as a Reader of Boccaccio," Italian 
Quarterly 82/83, Fall 1980/Winter 1981, p. 178. 

17. Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures (Bloomington: Indiana University 
Press, 1989), p. 170. 

^1976), trans. Stuart Hood (Manchester: Carcanet 


Ibid., p. 171. 


Nowell-Smith, p. 18. 


Mulvey, pp. 167-68. 


Pasolini, Lutheran Letters 


1983), p. 49. 


Ibid., p. 50. 


Ibid., p. 52. 


Benjamin, Walter, llluminations, trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books, 

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Avon Books, 1965. 


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Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1973. 
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Quarterly 82/83 (1980/81), 175-80. 
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Indiana University Press, 1982. 
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Collection of Articles and Texts in Translation, eds. Stephen Bann and John E. 

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Willemen, Paul, ed. Pier Paolo Pasolini. London: British Film Institute, 1977. 

Sexual Politics in Sixteenth Century Italy: 
Folengo 's Macaronic Misogyny 

Male/female relationships in Folengo's Baldus are consistchtly pro- 
blematic. From the abrupt infatuation Guido feels for Baldovina to the 
vilification of Berta, Baldus 's wife, everything about heterosexuahty is 
suspcct. The sexual economy is riddled with tensions between the 
willful and the rational. Guido elopes with Baldovina because he has 
been pricked by Cupid's arrow; his son Baldus marries in order to follow 
the dictates of custom in the turai setting in which he lives. 

Baldus is brought up, not by his father (who left on a pilgrimage 
before the child was born) but by his mother and by Berto Panada, the 
peasant who took care of Guido and Baldovina after their flight from 
Paris. Berto is a pastoral ideal, exemplifying the simple virtues of 
peasant life. He married a country woman at Baldovina's suggestion; 
she feared that her own reputation wouid be ruined living with a man 
who was neither relative nor spouse. Berto's son, Zambellus, is raised 
as a brother of Baldus. After Berto's death, however, Baldus takes 
charge of Berto's farm, forcing Zambellus and his wife Lena to work 
the land for the sake of Baldus and his wife. Although Baldus had 
fought against people who claimed that he was the illegitimate son of 
Berto, he gladly enough appropriates Zambellus's patrimony, not hav- 
ing had one from his own father, the pilgrim who never returned. 
Baldus takes advantage of his situation in Berto's home as elder male 
child, which makes him the head of household (Montrose, 1981). The 



simple-minded peasant Zambellus can only come into bis rightful in- 
heritance when Baldus is put into prison. 

The main female characters of this epic exercise influence in the 
sphere of the country household. There is the exceptional case of the 
witch Pandraga, but even on ber enchanted island ber activities are 
domestic and sexual. The sexual aspect cannot, of course, be separated 
from the duties of the bousewife. 

Berta, wife of Baldus, gives a rather detaiied description of the wife's 
tasks in ber defense of women. Sbe is responding to Tognazzo's 
vituperation against womankind, in which he remarks that women are 
worthless, vengeful and the cause of ali that is wrong in the world: 

Foemina sola potest omnem destruggere terram, 
tam bene scit frodas animo componere torto 
(VI: 387-88). 

Berta's enumeration of women's duties, addressed to Tognazzo, 
compose what Christine Delpby, in a modem context, bas dubbed the 
"domestic mode of production" (1984): 

Quis vestri capitis cerchet, Tognazze, pedocchios, 
quis massaricias bruttas lavet atque mudandas, 
quis tandem spulicare queat damatina camisam? 
Si vobis nulla est mulier, vel baila, vel uxor, 
quis gerat officium pelizzae, scaldaque letti? 
(VI: 518-22). 

Women must do the unpieasant chores for which men are too noble, 
from de-fleaing busbands and cbildren, to wasbing dirty clotbes and 
undergarments. It is rather amusing bow Berta says that there is no one 
to be the "fur coat" or "bed warmer" if one bas neitber a "woman, 
wet-nurse, nor wife" (VI: 521-22). Sbe indicates that men, when it 
Comes to personal care and domestic life, are like infants, needing wet- 
nurses and motber figures to attend to their needs. The duties of the 
good wife on behalf of ber husband are the same as those done for 
babies and even for domestic animals: cleaning them, feeding them, 
and keeping them warm. 

While no special education was required or even desired for many 
girls in the Renaissance, especially those wbo lived outside of the city 


and/or below a certain class level, it was up to mothers to instruct their 
daughters in the many tasks necessary to mn the household. This train- 
ing, along with good health and a robust constitution, made up the 
"dowry" of lower class girls (Wiesner, 1987; Klapisch-Zuber, 1985; 
Ruggiero, 1985). In addition, women were supposed to reproduce these 
social conditions by having children and bringing them up in this 
atmosphere of strict division of labor (Martines, 1974). 

It is interesting that Baldus, heroic descendant of Guido, famed 
knight at the Parisian court, should end up in prison because of his un- 
just usurpation of Zambellus Panada's property. Baldus thinks that he 
is the victim of grave injustices, since he ought to be admired and 
obeyed as a member of the noble stock from which he-illegitimately- 
comes. He is a superior warrior and it takes ali of the forces of Cipada 
to subdue hinn and put him under lock and key. His dilemma is a com- 
plex one, in that his father came from a class in France which was fast 
becoming obsolete: that of mounted knights. (Martines, 1980; Le Goff, 
1988) As power became more centralized (whether in city-states or in 
incipient nation states, as in France), there was less need for roving war- 
riors, who were often considered a threat to the new social order, and 
greater emphasis was placed on owning and managing property. A pro- 
ductive mercantile class was displacing a parasitic chivalrous one. Baldus 
does not "fit" on the country farm nor in the city; he behaves like a 
feudal lord in dealing with Zambellus. 

It is not merely the indeterminate status of Baldus 's patrimony which 
causes him problems — it is also what Kenneth Burke has called the 
"property in human affections" (1951). Baldus derives his negative 
view of women from both the knightly tradition (one thinks of Yvain 
and Erec, for example, who had difficulties in maintaining their 
chivalrous reputations after getting married) and the monastic one. He 
ultimately leaves his wife, in order to seek adventures abroad and to 
rid the world of heresy, most often manifest in female witches. The 
power that women derive from pacts with the devil is used almost ex- 
clusively for sexual puposes: to make men fall in love and stay in love 
with them; to trick husbands so they won't discover their wives' lovers; 
to produce abortions so that the fruits of their sins will not be 
discovered. Baldus's misgivings would seem to be the result of con- 


tradictions inherent in private ownership and monogamous relation- 
ships: what Kenneth Burke writes of as the peculiar situation of private 
property and private family, 

of ownership in the profoundest sense of ownership, the property in 
human affections, as fetishistically localized in the object of possession, 
while the possessor is himself possessed by his very engrossment. . . . The 
single mine-own-ness is thus dramatically split into three principles of 
possession, possessor, estrangement (threat of loss). Hence, trust and 
distrust, though living in each other, can he shown wrestling with each 
other. La propriété, e' est le voi. Property fears theft because it is theft 
(1951: 166-67). 

Baldus's identity is a conflation of birth and social status, which in 
turn shouid bave determined his education, occupation, marriage, etc. 
But, as we bave seen, bis identity is probematized by his parents' il- 
legitimate union and by his mother's precarious social position. 
Although Baldovina was daughter of the king of France, she has 
forfeited ber claim to ber father's wealth by doping with Guido. Her 
claims, however, even had she married legitimately according to her 
father's wishes, would not bave been as great as those of a son. In 
Renaissance society in general, the only share of the patrimony accorded 
women was their dowry, a one-time settlement of cash and goods such 
as linens, clothing, foodstuffs. 

Baldus's situation, then, movcs uneasily between his upbringing in 
a peasant cottage and his "innate" nobility. Since both his parents are 
landless, he cannot assume his "rightful" place in the social bierarchy: 
he is doomed to the social constraints of, on the one band, an agrarian, 
rustie existence and, on the other, a mercantile urban world which can 
only be effected by landed wealthy nobility or newly monied citizens. 
Baldus is a knight without a king to serve, a comic anachronism in the 
civic world of the city-state. 

Renaissance women, on the other band, had a more fluid identity: 
at first they "belonged" to their father and bis family, but this was 
often conceded as, in many respects, a temporary situation. From her 
father's home a Renaissance woman could either enter a convent as a 
"bride of Christ," or, what was more likely, she could marry and 
assume the identity of her husband's family. In both fact and fiction, 


however, we find examples of husbands who go to their in-laws' when 
they bave problems with their wives: see, for example. Boccaccio 's 
Decameron, day seven, tales four and eight. It appears that the 
woman's behavior could tarnish the reputation of ber natal family long 
after marriage. But even as this is acknowledged, Renaissance husbands 
stili felt that their honor was highly vulnerable to the dishonor which 
cuckoldry, the "forked plaque," would bring them. 

In addition to Tognazzo's enumeration of the wifc's proclivities to 
make the husband miserable, we bave later in Baldus the portrayal of 
women who make their husbands cuckholds. "The very sovereignty that 
the male absolutely arrogates to himself , as an essential aspect of priviate 
property in human affection, introduces a secret principle of self- 
doubt." (Burke, 1951: 182). Men are in Constant perii of losing con- 
trol of their wives, because unlike other forms of "property," women 
can talk and act. A wife had to be safely guarded in order to safeguard 
the belongings of ber spouse (of which she is but one). The socially and 
theologically sanctioned state of matrimony is ali that assures a man that 
bis property will be passed on along with bis name (if he has sons). This 
same institution guarantees the impoverished state of unwed mothers 
and their "bastards," as we saw in Baldus 's case. It is only if a father 
acknowledges a bastard as bis own that he takes on the financial respon- 
sibility of rearing the child. Because men controlied ali aspects of the 
economy, from guild-membership to inheritance practices to the laws 
governing these insitutions, they could ensure that mothers and out- 
of-wedlock children would remain stigmatized. The only time il- 
legitimacy threatened a man was within the conjugal bond itself, when 
a wife tried to pass off another man's child as bis. The anxiety which 
men suffered from the fact that they could never be completely cer- 
tain about the paternity of the children their wives bore is to be found 
in nearly ali literary genres, in conduct books, chronicles, histories and 
medicai treatises. 

The husband 's anxiety about bis wife's fidelity was due to a property 
battle. The typical ownership scenario was complicated by the woman's 
"will" — a problem potential in "animate" property. A wife who had 
sexual relations with a man who was not ber husband was effectively 
cheating him out of her value, while the "other man" was like a thief. 


The woman's worth diminished with each use, or, more accurately, with 
each user. A different type of historical example which illuminates the 
husband's control of his wife's body is that of wet-nursing: the hus- 
band hired out his wife's services and he was paid for the milk and labor 
she provided for other men's children. The husband who hired the wet- 
nurse often did so in order to free his wife to bear more children, as 
breast-feeding is usually accompanied by a temporary suspension of 
menstruation and the suppression of ovulation (Klapisch-Zuber, 1985; 
Harrell, 1981). 

Baldus, too is betrayed by his wife in the end: while journeying 
through the earth's nether regions he comes across his own twin sons. 
They bave been abandoned by their mother, who decided to live with 
another man. Berta has illegally done what many widowed Renaissance 
women were forced to do: because their principal attachment to their 
husband's family is severed by his death, her own family often calls her 
back, dowry and ali, in order to put her on the marriage market once 
more (Klapisch-Zuber, 1985). Any children usually remained in the 
husband's family, as they "belonged" there. The children just as often 
hoped that their mother would stay, if only for monetary reasons: 
restoring her dowry would deplete the patrimony they hoped to receive. 
Woman's lack of a fixed identity, then, made it difficult for her to 
please the two families who made claims upon her. Berta may bave 
thought that she'd fallen victim to the same fate as Baldovina; once 
the spouse had left on his ' 'pilgrimage" or adventure, she might never 
see him again. Such a consideration, though, was not a part of 
Folengo 's world-view. 

I began this study by observing that inter-gender relationships in 
Baldus were a source of tension, and I attempted to trace some of the 
strains back to their origins in Renaissance socio-cultural institutions. 
Paradoxically, women were viewed, en masse, as having no fixed iden- 
tity; 1 say paradoxically because they were fixed in the minds of 
Renaissance men as being unstable, indeterminate. The fact that many 
male authors portrayed women as an almost undifferentiated collec- 
tion of beings, united by their common biology, is consistent with the 
de-humanizing effects of any stereotype. Misogyny is the pernicious ex- 
pression of this stereotyping. It is interesting to note, in studying these 


considerations, that the very institutions men created for their benefit 
and assurance gave way to situations beyond their control; for there 
would he no cuckoldry if there were no marriage, no private property 
in human affections. 

Mary M. Gallucci 

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